side photo of white man with grey hair and glasses, raising hand as he speaks
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Terry England, R-Auburn, speaks to the House in Atlanta on Friday, March 5, 2021. England’s committee on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, passed a revised budget for the current year that includes higher pay for state employees and teachers and state income tax rebates. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Georgia’s state employees and K-12 teachers will get paid more, taxpayers will get rebates and the state will spend hundreds of millions on new prisons and other projects under a revised budget passed Friday by the state House on a 152-4 vote,

The spending plan, which runs through June 30, now moves to the state Senate for more debate.

House Bill 910 includes $5,000 pay boosts for university and state agency employees, $2,000 bonuses to teachers and $1,000 bonuses to other K-12 workers including school bus drivers, part-time employees and cafeteria workers. It also restores $383 million to the state’s K-12 funding formula that had been cut when lawmakers feared revenue decreases at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beyond the spending, the document also sets up $1.6 billion in state income tax rebates.

State and university employees who have been on the payroll since July 1 will get a $3,750 bonus for time worked through March 30, and a $1,250 pay raise over the remaining three months of the year. K-12 teachers will get a $2,000 bonus, as Republican Gov. Brian Kemp proposed. Lawmakers plan to roll a full $5,000 raise for employees and $2,000 for teachers into next year’s budget.

“This is the first cost of living adjustment that we in a state have been in condition to give to our employees in 14 years,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, an Auburn Republican, told lawmakers Friday.

House lawmakers added $8.5 million to provide school custodians a one-time $1,000 bonus to go with the money going to bus drivers and cafeteria workers. They also added $3.5 million to fully cover the cost of bonuses for cafeteria workers.

This year is seeing a huge burst of spending even as Kemp and lawmakers face reelection later this year, thanks to bountiful state tax collections. A $2.35 billion surplus was left at the end of the 2021 budget even after filling the state’s savings account to its legal limit of $4.3 billion. That led the House to agree with Kemp’s plan to give $1.6 billion in tax rebates in April — $250 to every single person filing state income taxes, $375 to every single person heading a household and $500 to married people filing jointly.

The House plan also spends cash on construction projects and equipment purchases that the state would normally finance through borrowing. That includes $432 million, as proposed by Kemp, to buy a private prison and begin building a second prison, in a plan that also includes closing several older state prisons. The state would also spend $193 million to buy more than 1,700 school buses.

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