Political Matters

$25B budget approved by State Senate

Budget includes $2.2M for Clarkesville NGTC campus expansion project

With only five days left on the legislative calendar, it is important to prioritize legislation with Georgians’ best interests in mind. A majority of the bills passed in the last two weeks have updated language to existing laws to comply with federal regulation and eliminate outdated provisions. This week, the Senate passed several pieces of legislation, one of them being the Fiscal Year 2018 General Budget.

Expanded insurance for firefighters

Last week, the Senate passed House Bill 146 which would provide expanded insurance coverage for firefighters by requiring their fire departments to provide them with health insurance specific to their needs. Firefighters are specifically in danger of developing digestive, oral, respiratory and urinary cancers as well as malignant mesothelioma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Business tax credits

Our favorable business climate and tax structure have led Georgia to be ranked the top place to do business four years running by Site Selection Magazine. This week, we passed HB 265, which will work to further improve our tax climate for businesses by creating a new seven year window for employers to benefit from a tax credit for new job creation in Georgia.

HB 265 also creates a new sales tax exemption which will exempt property used in the renovation or expansion of certain qualifying theaters owned by nonprofit organizations. I believe this legislation will lead us to continue to rank at the top for best state to do business in, and will help create more jobs to employ more citizens in our state.

2% raise for school personnel and a $2.2 million expansion of the NGTC campus in Clarkesville

Your legislators, in both the Senate and the House, have been working diligently throughout the Session to review our state’s budget needs and determine the best, most fiscally responsible way to distribute funds. House Bill 44, the Fiscal Year 18 General Budget (FY18), was passed on Wednesday of this week and consists of nearly $25 billion in revenue to fund state agencies, programs and operation of the state of Georgia.

I am pleased that the FY18 budget includes $160.1 million for a two percent base salary increase for teachers, school bus drivers and school nurses. We have seen tremendous growth in school enrollment throughout Georgia in the past few years. As a result, it’s important that we continue to provide an adequate number of classrooms for the ever growing population. We’ve allocated over $240 million in bonds for statewide school construction.

The Technical College System of Georgia is growing too. The FY 18 Budget includes $2.2 million for the expansion of the Clarkesville Campus of North Georgia Technical College.

This budget also provides for the creation of 11 new food safety positions within the Department of Agriculture. There are a lot of other areas such as criminal justice, cybersecurity, community health and transportation that also received funding from this year’s budget.

Contact me

Please feel free to contact my office at any time to discuss pending legislation or address other concerns in our district – my door and phone lines are always open.  I encourage groups who are interested in visiting the Capitol to call my office at (404) 463-5257 to set up a date and time. I look forward to personally welcoming you to the Capitol!

About the author: Sen. John Wilkinson serves as the Chairman of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee and Vice Chairman of the Education and Youth Committee.  He represents the 50th Senate District which includes Banks, Franklin, Habersham, Rabun, Stephens and Towns counties and portions of Hall and Jackson counties. He can be reached by phone at 404.463.5257 or by email at john.wikinson@senate.ga.gov.

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