Gov. Deal budget plan reflects return to pre-recession spending levels

Gov. Deal budget plan reflects return to pre-recession spending levels

By Louis Mayeux – Gov. Nathan Deal begins his second term with a state budget closer to those of Georgia’s boom years before the recession slashed state revenues to the bare bone. Deal on Friday offered a proposed $21.78 billion spending plan for FY 2016, which begins July 1, an increase of about $900 million over this year’s budget. The state budget had reached $21 billion before economic bad times sunk state spending to around $18 billion. But while revenues continue to increase, so has the state’s population, which means that the state’s spending doesn’t go as far as it did before the recession. “It’s taken us a long time to recover,” said University of Georgia political science professor Dr. Charles Bullock III. “We’re getting back to where we were, and we haven’t begun to be fully able to meet expectations.” After years of austerity cuts of as much as $1 billion a year to the state’s schools, Deal boosts Quality Basic Education funding by $280 million, a significant step toward fulling funding the QBE formula for the first time since 2003. He also plans to give state employees and teachers pay raises worth $27.7 million, a modest amount after years of no increases. “The teachers have suffered in the recession,” Bullock said. Although the spending plan doesn’t yet match the generous days of the past, the budget plan reflects the governor’s optimistic theme in last week’s state of the state speech that the economic recovery will keep rising. “More money is out there,” Bullock said. “Like any politician, he likes to be in a position of distributing extra...
GA: Medical cannabis bill change would decriminalize use of substance obtained out of state

GA: Medical cannabis bill change would decriminalize use of substance obtained out of state

Rep. Allen Peake Monday changed his proposed medical cannabis legislation to decriminalize possession of the substance obtained by Georgians in other states for medical uses. After discussions with Gov. Nathan Deal, Peake, R-Macon, announced the changes to his HB1, which would allow those with cancer and other medical conditions to use cannabis oil. Another proposed change would set up a council to develop regulations regarding the growth of marijuana and the distribution of cannabis oil in Georgia. Deal had expressed concerns about marijuana cultivation in the state. The change would decriminalize possession of cannabis oil containing between 3 to 5 percent THC for those who obtained the substance legally in another state. “With this news, I am happy to say that our medical refugees in other states can start packing to come home and reunite with their families,” Peake said in a statement. “Once the updated legislation is formally introduced and passed by both House and Senate chambers, decriminalization would be effective as soon as the governor signs HB 1 into law. “Families in Georgia who are seeking medical cannabis will now be able to go to another state to legally obtain the treatment and then come back home without fear of being prosecuted in Georgia.” Referring to the council that will do cultivation research, Peake said, “After much discussion, it is clear that we need to conduct more research on setting an in-state growing scenario in order to provide the best and most effective infrastructure for our...