ATLANTA – The Georgia Senate’s budget-writing committee approved a $29.9 billion mid-year state budget Monday with raises for teachers and state employees and a $1.6 billion refund for Georgia taxpayers.

The mid-year budget covering state spending through the end of June represents a $2.7 billion increase over the fiscal 2022 budget lawmakers adopted last spring.

Gov. Brian Kemp and legislative leaders can afford to be generous this year as state tax revenues continue to bounce back from huge declines suffered during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic two years ago.

“Georgia’s economy is resilient,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia. “Georgia’s economy has continued to grow.”

The Senate panel put its stamp of approval on a $5,000 pay increase for state employees and a $2,000 raise for Georgia teachers Gov. Brian Kemp recommended in January. The increase for teachers completes the $5,000 raise Kemp promised on the campaign trail four years ago.

The election-year tax refund would be worth $250 for single state income tax filers and $500 for joint filers.

The mid-year spending plan also includes $388.2 million to fully fund the state’s K-12 student funding formula, $93 million to accommodate an increase in student enrollment last fall, $188 million to replace aging school buses and $432 million to begin a “state prison transformation” that includes buying a private prison and building a second one.

The Senate version of the mid-year budget would increase the $5,000 raises Kemp is proposing to $9,000 for employees of the departments of Corrections and Juvenile Justice, which have been hit particularly hard by turnover.

Other Senate changes include $189.2 million to provide a 20% state match to the federal funds Georgia is due to receive from the infrastructure spending bill Congress passed last November, $20 million for economic development grants to downtown areas of rural communities and $5 million in equipment and operating grants to college nursing programs.

“It’s no secret that our state needs nurses,” Tillery said.

The full Senate is expected to adopt the mid-year budget later this week.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation