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Thursday, February 2, 2023 - Legislative Day #12
Archive of Past Legislative Alerts

GAE is working with legislators in both the House of Representatives and in the state Senate to make significant improvements to the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS).  PSERS is the state pension plan for school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, and school maintenance personnel.  Average monthly pension benefits are $290.

In the past two days, GAE has met with legislators to help shape such legislation, which could be filed next week.

It is our understanding that one bill would raise significantly the current cap in state law that limits how much our ESPs in the PSERS can receive in monthly retirement benefits.  Separately, GAE is seeking an appropriation for the 2023-2024 budget to raise the multiplier to $16.50, which is the maximum currently allowed by Georgia law.

State Health Benefits Plan Raises
Employer Contributions By 67%


This morning, state Representatives approved, 170-1, mid-year changes to the state's 2022-2023 budget.

Perhaps the most under-reported news under the Gold Dome has been a decision by the State Health Benefit Plan to raise employer contributions by 67%.  The individual employer contribution is set to rise from $945 per educator to $1,580.

To help school districts pay for that massive new expense, Gov. Brian Kemp included $423 million for certified employees for the remainder of this fiscal/school year and $846 million in the 2024 budget.

Many school districts have expressed serious concerns that the proposed appropriation isn't nearly enough.  Some school systems have told their legislators that an increase of 2 mills would be needed to pay the rest of the health insurance costs.

The House budget adds an additional $100 million to spread out the costs of the employer contribution hike over three years.

House Appropriations Chair Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, said of school systems: "[H]opefully, they should be able to to absorb it," Hatchett said.  According to Mr. Hatchett: "The premiums that employees directly pay wouldn't change."

According to a report by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts released just days ago, "Revenue for the Teachers and School Employees Plans has not been sufficient to cover members' healthcare expenditures over the past few years.  In fiscal year 2022, for example, SHBP expenditures for the Teachers Plan and School Employees Plan exceeded revenue by $251 million and $213 million, respectively."

Obviously, this is a situation that GAE is following very closely.

The budget also includes $1 billion in one-time income tax refunds ($250-$500 per filer) and $900 million in one-time property tax refunds (about $500 per homeowner).

In his proposed budget, Gov. Brian Kemp included money for $50,000 grants to schools for school safety programs - the House increased it to $60,000.

The House also re-allocated $25 million in funding for "learning loss" that the governor had included in his budget.  No details were ever provided as to how this funding would be used or what programs would be implemented.

Kemp's plan to spend $15 million in grants to encourage and assist para-professionals in becoming certified teachers was cut to $5 million by the House.  The House also added $1.25 million to provide the matching funds for school systems to implement character education programming.

The House-passed 2022-2023 budget now goes to the Senate.  The House Appropriations Committee will now begin work on the budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year.

Sports betting bill would benefit education

Sen. Billy Hickman, R-Statesboro, has introduced legislation that would allow betting on sporting events in Georgia, SB 57, which includes 58 pages of rules and regulations to govern it.  Revenue from sports betting would benefit the same educational programs as the Georgia Lottery, including HOPE Scholarships and pre-k education.

Legal betting on sports events has been an issue under the Gold Dome for several years.  Legislation has also been offered in past sessions to legalize casino gambling and horse-racing betting.  Hickman's bill limits itself to betting on sporting events.

Some believe that a Constitutional amendment would be required to expand gaming in Georgia.  Hickman and his supporters believe as long as it benefits the Lottery and Lottery-funded educational purposes, legislation is sufficient.

Constitutional amendments are much harder than legislation to pass at the Capitol.  To be enacted, a proposed Constitutional amendment needs support from 2/3rds of each Chamber to be placed on the ballot, where 50%-plus-one of the voters must then approve.  Legislation only requires a majority vote of the two chambers and the signature of the governor.

The Week Ahead at the State Capitol

The General Assembly will meet next on Monday, February 6, at 10 a.m.  At this time, no relevant committee meeting notices have been posted.  Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Billy Hickman indicated that his committee and the Senate Education Committee would continue their hearings on literacy on Tuesday, February 7.


Next Legislative Alert will be Monday, February 6

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