ATLANTA -- Gov. Nathan Deal removed nothing from the $20 billion budget before signing it into law Monday in a handful of ceremonies across the state on the first day of early voting.
There was little doubt that he would sign it, but unlike most governors, he declined to use his line-item veto to eliminate any appropriations.
Deal and his staff have made a point of working with legislators while the General Assembly is in session to come to agreement on bills and the state’s spending plan. That leads to few vetoes.
By then end of Tuesday, Deal will issue the list of bills he is vetoing. Along with the list will be three appropriations in which the legislature wrote out specific spending instructions that Deal is telling state agencies to ignore, according to the governor’s spokesman Brian Robinson.
Among the features of this election-year budget are a $514 million increase in k-12 education that gives local school boards the ability to grant raises or end furloughs, a 3 percent increase in the amount of HOPE Scholarships and HOPE Grants, $35 million for deepening of the Savannah River and $39 million for water-supply projects. At the same time, it is increasing the state’s rainy-day reserves.
More than 40 programs came under special scrutiny as part of zero-based budgeting, and Deal highlighted his conservative approach to spending as a way to focus resources away from side issues and concentrate them on education.
“It is through these measures that we now have the opportunity to fund our state’s top priorities,” he said. “This year, more than 80 percent of new revenue receipts are dedicated to education, with 66 percent of those new revenues going to K-12 alone.”
Still, Deal’s Democratic challenger, Sen. Jason Carter of Atlanta, said the governor should have devoted even more to education.
“Students and teachers deserve leaders who will make education the top priority every year,” Carter said, renewing his call for a separate budget for education.
Other critics have attacked Deal for not boosting taxes to provide additional money for education, health care and other social services. One of the bills he signed into law Monday was House Bill 658 which eliminates Georgia’s estate tax, which reflects the end of the federal estate tax in 2004.