BRADENTON, Fla. - Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed a nearly $50 billion budget with a large bond financing component for fiscal 2018.
Deal, a Republican, recommended a 3% increase in the total budget over the current year, a move he said was a "diligent effort to keep from overcommitting future spending."
"We must be fully ready to absorb whatever fickle winds of economics blow our way," Deal wrote to lawmakers in a cover letter with his budget for the year starting July 1.
The governor also touted the state's "prudent" spending practices for bringing the revenue shortfall reserve to just over $2 billion, but he also urged lawmakers to resist dipping into the fund.
"Reserves are often easy targets in years of prosperity, but they are desirable stores of grain during years of proverbial famine," he said. "Furthermore, credit rating agencies have cited our healthy reserve levels as a key reason for Georgia retaining its coveted AAA rating."
For the general fund, Deal recommended a $24.9 billion budget, a 5% increase over fiscal 2017.
Deal said he focused spending initiatives on cybersecurity, education, public safety, health care, and economic development.
In his amended budget for the current year, he is seeking $50 million for a new Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center to be located on state-owned property in Augusta.
The center, he said, will be developed in partnership with state and federal agencies as well as the private sector "to create a secure environment for cybersecurity education programs, testing and training."
In the 2018 budget, the governor has recommended $1 billion of new bonds – an amount similar to previous years.
Deal wants to use about half of the financing for education capital needs while $120 million would be used for public safety facilities and training and $100 million of state bonds will fund transportation projects.
Numerous smaller projects would also be financed with bonds.
The budget provides a 2% salary increase for teachers, sets aside $117 million for "performance incentives" for top employees and employee retention initiatives, and provides a 20% pay hike for law enforcement officers.
Deal also wants to set aside $162.6 million of new state general and motor fuel funds for transportation.
The GOP-led General Assembly will use the governor's recommendations as a starting point to develop the state's budget. Their annual session began Monday and runs through late March.
Deal, who is two years into his second term, can sign or veto the budget lawmakers eventually adopt, or use his line-item veto authority.