ATLANTA – The General Assembly gave final passage Monday to a $37.9 billion midyear budget loaded with $5.5 billion in new spending.

The midyear budget, which covers state spending through June 30, provided an additional $5 billion in spending when it emerged from the state House and Senate.

But the joint House-Senate conference committee that worked out the final version of the plan added $392 million to fund major renovations at the state Capitol complex both to improve security and enhance public access. Gov. Brian Kemp revised his fiscal 2024 revenue estimate upward to accommodate what promises to be a multi-year project.

“A lot has changed since this building opened in 1889,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, told his House colleagues before they approved the midyear budget 169-2. “We’re bursting at the seams.”

Hatchett said the hallways at the Capitol have grown increasingly crowded during legislative sessions in recent years, and public access – particularly to committee meeting rooms inside the Capitol and Coverdell Legislative Office Building across the street – has become an issue.

“We should be open,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, said before the upper chamber approved the midyear budget 52-1. “People should have access and be able to participate in their government.”

Other than the Capitol complex renovation, House and Senate conferees made few changes to the spending plan Gov. Brian Kemp presented to the General Assembly last month. The midyear budget is highlighted by a $300 million appropriation for $1,000 one-time pay supplements for Georgia’s public school teachers and state and university system employees.

As usual, the midyear budget includes an adjustment to account for school enrollment growth – in this case, $102 million. Lawmakers also restored $66 million the legislature had cut from the university system’s fiscal 2024 budget last spring.

The Georgia Department of Transportation received a big boost in funding, including $593 million for capital projects in the agency’s pipeline and $500 million for projects aimed at improving the movement of freight through the Peach State.

The Georgia Environmental Finance Authority received $250 million to pay for water and sewer projects across the state.

For the first time in memory, capital projects will be paid for out of cash rather than bonds thanks for a bulging budget surplus the state has built up during the last three years. Projects on the list include $436 million for a new state prison in Washington County, $178 million for a new dental school at Georgia Southern University’s Armstrong campus in Savannah, and $50 million for a new medical school at the University of Georgia in Athens.

The midyear budget also includes $37.5 million to renovate the Atlanta Farmers Market in Clayton County and $3.1 million to design a new medical examiner’s office in Macon.

The conferees added a few items to the spending plan, including $10 million in federal funds that will go toward a character education program in the public schools and $4 million to benefit retired state troopers who were injured in the line of duty.

The midyear budget’s final step will be Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.