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Last week consumed days one through four of the 40 day legislative session. This week, the legislature “recessed” to focus solely on the state budget. Most department and agency heads appeared before the joint House and Senate Appropriations Committees to speak for the dollars they currently receive and to make other strategic and specific requests. 

Here are a few highlights that affect our area:


State Economic Outlook

  • State economist, Dr. Jeffery Dorfman, reported he expects Georgia’s economy to remain resilient through 2021. 
  • Georgia’s unemployment rate has remained below national levels and, in his opinion, has reached as close to full employment as possible until the pandemic ends and industries like restaurants and hospitality can fully resume.
  • Due to stimulus payments and other federal benefits, individual Georgia families collectively have more in savings now than they did before the pandemic. 
  • Incomes are also up 2.9%. These statistics certainly go against all previous notions of a recession.
  • While much of this is good news, these gains could be wiped out next quarter with income tax refunds and much uncertainty still abounds.

Agriculture

  • $1.75 million requested to mitigate operational impacts at the Georgia Ag Expo.
  • $453,000 request to further advance industrial hemp licensing.

K/12 Education

  • FTE student counts are down 36,000 since last year, mostly in lower grades.
  • Governor’s budget proposes adding over $600 million back to the QBE formula.

Augusta University

  • AU started a program to teach coding to rural K-12 students. I’m excited about what this may mean for middle and high school students in our area.
  • The Georgia Cyber Center at AU has assisted the Senate in tackling broadband deployment hurdles. The Governor has included $30 million to address rural broadband and we think the Cyber Center’s work can help make these dollars go even further.

Dept. of Corrections

  • Through COVID-19, DOC has seen a double digit percentage decrease in their prisoner population.
  • Turnover at DOC has been extremely high and the Governor’s budget includes a pay increase to help stem this.

Dept. of Transportation

  • Vehicle travel counts are now up close to pre-pandemic levels. They are at or above pre-pandemic levels for our area of the state.

Dept. of Family and Children Services

  • Governor’s budget puts $4.5 million into caseload growth for adoptions.
  • The number of children in Georgia Foster Care have fallen from 15,000 children in 2018 to 11,200 today, over a 25% decrease!

While this week has been solely devoted to the budget, those not on the budget committee began work on elections integrity matters. I expect you will see multiple bills dropped on this topic next week and will wait until we see their final drafts to discuss them in more detail. 

Many of you have also reached out to me this week about COVID-19 vaccinations. The state does not have a stockpile of the vaccine it distributes to others. Rather, the state’s role is to order the vaccine directly from the manufactures based on medical provider requests. The Moderna vaccine ships straight from the manufacturer to packaging with a McKesson distribution center in Tennessee, then straight to medical providers. The Pfizer vaccine ships straight from the manufacturer in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to medical providers. The state has already cut restrictions to allow more medical providers to give the vaccine. Our biggest issue right now is getting enough of the vaccine to medical providers.  Some medical providers have never received a shipment, while others have received more than they have currently used. The Governor mentioned getting his pickup truck to redistribute the oversupply of some providers if not used quickly. We’re working on this issue now.

In a radio broadcast this week, a constituent asked about Georgia’s high demand fields, where the state of Georgia pays the full tuition for Georgia residents who commit to studying fields deemed to be in high demand in the Technical College System. To qualify for this program, residents must be in good standing on all student loans, not have previously exceeded the award limit for any HOPE program, and maintain a 2.0 GPA while pursuing their studies. These in-demand fields include:

  • Automotive Technology
  • Certified Engineer Assistant
  • Computer Programming
  • Construction Technology
  • Early Childhood Care and Education
  • Health Science
  • Logistics/Transportation Technology
  • Practical Nursing
  • Welding and Joining Technology
  • Aviation Technology
  • Commercial Truck Driving
  • Computer Technology
  • Diesel Equipment Technology
  • Electrical Lineman Technology
  • Industrial Maintenance
  • Movie Production Set Design
  • Precision Manufacturing

More information on these programs can be found on the Technical College System of Georgia’s website- https://www.tcsg.edu/free-tuition/.

I look forward to sharing more with you next week and, as always, thank you for allowing me to represent you in Atlanta.

Sen. Blake Tillery serves as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties.  He can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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