BRADENTON, Fla. - Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed a $44.6 billion budget for fiscal year 2016 that includes $800 million in general obligation bonds for a variety of capital projects.
Deal said the state's strengthening economy would allow 3.15% in additional spending in the coming year, over the current $43.2 billion adjusted budget.
"Our attractive business climate has helped Georgia's economic growth accelerate in recent years," Deal said in a letter to legislators accompanying his budget recommendations Jan. 16. "Key to our state's economic success is having the No. 1-ranked workforce in the nation."
The governor expects the economy to see "accelerated growth" in fiscal 2016, and said his budget focuses on education spending.
For the general fund portion of his spending plan, Deal proposes nearly $1 billion in new spending for a total of $21.8 billion or an increase of 4.3% over the current year.
The budget calls for $140 million to fully fund the annual required contribution for the state's four pension plans for teachers, employees, public school employees, and the Georgia Military Pension Fund System.
Deal is also asking for $27.7 million to give performance bonuses to high-performing employees, as well as recruitment and retention initiatives.
Deal is seeking $800 million in GO bond authority in 2016, compared to $763.1 million that he proposed in the current budget. If the General Assembly agrees with the governor, the majority of the debt would be sold with 20-year maturities, the longest the state allows for GOs.
Well over half the total new debt proposed by Deal, $526.2 million, would be issued for various education programs, including K-12, higher education, and technical schools.
Under a category called "growing Georgia," $108.3 million of bond proceeds would go for programs such as agriculture, reservoirs, state funded water and sewer loans, forestry, natural resources, and specific parks. The category includes $25 million in bonding for the Georgia World Congress Authority projects, most of which is earmarked for parking facilities near the Atlanta Falcons' new stadium.
Some $47.5 million of GOs would go for state health-related departments, while $94.2 million is for public safety, and the remainder of bonds would finance statewide capital needs.
The Georgia Legislature's annual session began Jan. 12 and runs through March 9.