State lawmakers reach budget deal, must still vote

With just one day left in the 2020 legislative session, lawmakers have reached a deal on the FY 2021 budget, which begins next week. The state has seen drastically reduced tax revenues in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

"To start off thinking we had to be at a 14% reduction and then dropping to what we thought would be an 11% reduction, there were no easy decisions," said House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn.

Earlier this week, Gov. Brian Kemp adjusted his revenue estimates and notified lawmakers they only needed to cut the budget by 10%.

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Senate Appropriations Chairman Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, said that made a world of difference.

"The governor's one percent add back made miraculous changes to this budget and especially in services that affect people," Tillery explained.

Both England and Tillery led the conference committee that worked to finalize a budget compromise.  In a meeting Thursday afternoon, they announced the final draft included:

• no furloughs for state employees

• a 10% cut to Quality Basic Education funding, but full funding of enrollment growth

• an expansion of postpartum Medicaid coverage for new mothers to six months

• funding of one and half state trooper schools

The total budget is $25.9 billion and includes about $250 million in state rainy day funds.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the budget proposal Friday.

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