News from Rep. Pam Dickerson | Georgia House District 113
January 28, 2015
Rep. Pam Dickerson

Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees held hearings and began work last week on the annual state budget for fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1, as well as the amended budget for the remainder of the current fiscal year. See the report below. 


The full General Assembly returned to the Capitol on Monday. Wednesday, Jan. 28, is the seventh legislative day of the session.

Please feel free to contact me with your views on the issues facing our state, or whenever I can be of service. Thank you for allowing me to continue to serve you in the Georgia General Assembly.

Rep. Pam Dickerson 

Georgia State Capitol

Governor proposes $21.8 billion state budget for fiscal year 2016

The FY 2016 budget proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal totals almost $21.8 billion. Education takes the largest share of the appropriations with $10.9 billion - just over half of the overall budget - going to K-12 schools and Georgia's colleges and universities.


The proposed education appropriations include $280 million to restore, only partially, the administration's previous K-12 funding cuts, plus $173 million to accommodate growth in the K-12 schools. But the governor's plan also includes a controversial plan to eliminate health insurance coverage for an estimated 11,500 part-time school employees, including bus drivers and cafeteria workers.


Our schools depend on part-time personnel to provide meals and transport students to and from schools. Eliminating health coverage for these employees, who already work for low wages, would be especially cruel and would negatively impact our schools' ability to fill these vital positions in the future.


Fortunately, some legislative budget writers have already announced their support for retaining health coverage for the bus drivers and food service workers, and hopefully that part of Gov. Deal's proposal will not be approved.


Funding for the Medicaid and PeachCare healthcare programs total $2.9 billion in the governor's budget plan, followed by $1.2 billion for the Department of Corrections, $1.2 billion to service the state's debt and $1.1 billion for general government costs. The plan also includes $984 million for the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities, $876 million for transportation, $678 million for public safety, $553 million for human services and $389 million for other healthcare programs.


A 1 percent pay increase for state employees is reflected in the budget, along with at $34 million increase for the Division of Family & Children Services to hire 278 additional child welfare caseworkers, and $1.2 million to hire four more lawyers and four additional auditors or investigators for the State Ethics Commission.


As part of his continuing criminal justice reform initiative, the governor is also proposing a $5 million increase in funding of the state's drug courts and accountability courts and $15 million to hire educators and operate two charter schools, offering classes to inmates seeking to obtain a high school diploma.


Overall, the proposed FY 2016 budget reflects an increase of $946.2 million, or 4.5 percent, over the appropriations plan approved by the General Assembly last year.


For the amended FY 2015 budget, which runs through June 30, Gov. Deal has proposed an overall increase of $87 million, which includes $35 million for grants to help classrooms across the state gain greater access to broadband internet.


The House Appropriations Committee will be the first to act on the amended FY 2015 and annual FY 2016 budget plans later in the legislative session, which resumes Jan. 26. Click here to review the full version of Gov. Deal's Budget Report for FY 2016.


Georgia jobless rate still exceeds national average


Although Georgia's unemployment rate declined from 7.2 percent to 6.9 percent in December, we continue to have one of the highest jobless rates in the country. For the 89th consecutive month, Georgia's unemployment rate was higher than the national average, which now stands at 5.6 percent.


While holiday season hiring brought 900 new jobs to the state's economy, primarily in the retail trade, warehousing and transportation sectors, 57,510 new unemployment insurance benefit claims were filed in December, down 12.7 percent from a year ago but more than double the total from the previous month.


Education Reform Commission appointed

Gov. Nathan Deal has announced the appointment of a 34-member Education Reform Commission, which will study the state's education system, including its funding formula, and provide recommendations to improve the system, increase access to early learning programs, recruit and retain high-quality instructors and expand school options for Georgia's families.


The commission will be chaired by former University of Georgia President Charles Knapp and includes members of the General Assembly, educators and school system administrators, business leaders and other professionals. The commission will convene throughout the year to comprehensively review the state's education system and QBE funding formula in order to provide recommendations on possible executive, legislative and agency fixes. The recommendations will be sent to Deal by Aug. 1 of this year, with some going into effect as early as the 2016-2017 school year.


In making the announcement, Gov. Deal said, "My vision for K-12 education in Georgia is a system driven by student need that provides local school and district leaders with real control and flexibility. With this commission now in place, it is my hope that we will work together to make education more accessible and effective in preparing our state's students for the rigors of college and the workforce. Georgia families depend on our classrooms, and now it's time we take the responsibility in full to provide the high-quality, technologically advanced education they so deserve. I fully anticipate this commission will help bring my vision to reality and I'm grateful for the members' willingness to serve."

Contact Rep. Dickerson
At the Capitol:
611-E Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334
Phone 404-656-0314
In the District:
P.O. Box 1016, Conyers, GA 30013
Phone 770-602-0085