Where will tax money be spent? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Where will tax money be spent?

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ATLANTA, GA (WALB) -

Georgia lawmakers have more money to spend thanks to increasing state revenue.  But where will they spend that money?

On day one of the General Assembly session, lawmakers are downplaying hopes of major new spending to make up for years of cuts. 

The 2014 General Assembly session begins with good news about steadily increasing revenue.  "I'm excited about getting back to work, and I'm just grateful that revenues are improving," said Rep. Mike Cheokas/(R) Americus.

And there is broad support from both parties to increase spending on education. "Communities and states are only as strong as its educational system," said Sen. Freddie Powell Sims/(D).  

 "I would certainly hope that we could remove some of the austerity cuts from education," said Rep. Jay Powell/(R) Camilla.

But lawmakers say local school systems won't get everything they want, and state employees who haven't had a raise in eight years might not get one this year either.  "If we see pay raises this year, they will be either very modest if they're across the board, or they will be targeted to areas where we are actually losing people," said Jay Powell.

Lawmakers say a lot of the extra revenue will go to Medicaid.  Because of Obamacare, a lot of Georgians who didn't know they qualified for Medicaid are now signing up.  "When we start looking at that, what it's going to cost us this year alone, that's going to eat up a lot of that extra revenue," said Rep. Jay Roberts/(R) Ocilla.

There will be a major push to get Governor Nathan Deal to change his mind and accept hundreds of millions of federal dollars under Obamacare to expand Medicaid, but even Democrats aren't optimistic that will happen.  

"We're hoping, but I don't think the Governor is going to change his mind right away," said Sen. Sims.

Democrats say that decision by the Governor was political; that he doesn't want to do anything to support Obamacare.  But Republican lawmakers told me today they have real concerns about the long term cost to the state.

On Wednesday, we'll get a better idea of how the state's extra revenue will be spent. That's when the Governor will give details of his budget proposal.

 

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