Gov. Brian Kemp signed a record $37.9 billion fiscal 2024 midyear budget Thursday that includes $5.5 billion in new spending.

“This is a very, very good budget,” House Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, said during a signing ceremony at the state Capitol. “It reflects the shared priorities of both (legislative) chambers.”

The midyear budget, which covers state spending through June 30, includes a $1.5 billion infusion of funding for transportation improvements, $250 million for local water and sewer projects, $102.5 million to account for public school enrollment growth, $100 million for rural economic development projects, almost $70 million in additional funding for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, and $50 million to expand Georgia’s rural workforce housing program.

“When you add everything in this document up, it demonstrates you can make smart investments when you budget wisely,” Kemp said shortly before signing the midyear budget.

The spending plan allocates $2 billion of an unprecedented $16 billion budget surplus toward the new spending, a far cry from the days of the Great Recession, when Georgia’s “rainy-day” fund was severely depleted.

“It is probably harder with a surplus than any other time,” said Lt. Gov. Burt Jones. “Everybody has special projects.”

With so much extra money on hand, the midyear budget for the first time in memory pays for major capital projects with cash instead of bond financing. It allocates $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 General Assembly also made an 11th-hour allocation of $392 million to fund major renovations at the state Capitol complex both to improve security and enhance public access. Another $300 million will go for $1,000 one-time pay supplements for Georgia’s public school teachers and state and university system employees.

With the midyear budget now in the rearview mirror, lawmakers next will tackle Kemp’s $36.1 billion fiscal 2025 budget plan.

Dave Williams writes for Capitol Beat News Service

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