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Georgia lawmakers approve budget as session ends

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(The Center Square) — Georgia lawmakers signed off on the fiscal year 2025 budget in the final hours of this year’s legislative session but did not pass a bill to allow sports betting.

Lawmakers gave the nod to a more than $66.8 billion state budget for fiscal 2025, which starts July 1. The spending plan, which anticipates $36.1 billion in state money and $19 billion in federal taxpayer funds, includes pay raises for public school teachers and state law enforcement officers.

The budget, House Bill 916, includes more than $15.5 billion for the Department of Education, including nearly $2.3 billion in federal funds and grants. It also allocates nearly $4.2 billion for the Department of Transportation, including more than $1.6 billion in federal funds and grants.

“The investments made in this budget will help us keep Georgia the best state to live, work, and raise a family,” Republican Gov. Brian Kemp said in a post to X, formerly Twitter.

According to the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, the state budget includes a roughly $100 million increase for the state’s Lottery-funded Pre-K and nearly $10 million for the Childcare & Parent Services Program.

“Thanks to all of the champions in the legislature who made these investments possible,” the group said in a post to X.

The fiscal 2025 budget includes more than $9.7 billion for the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, including nearly $3.4 billion in state taxpayer dollars and more than $1.8 billion in federal funds and grants.

According to Kemp, the budget also expands the state’s Gang Prosecution Unit and Task Force and creates an Organized Retail Crime and Cyber Prosecution Unit. However, lawmakers again declined to expand Medicaid despite a last-minute push from Georgia Democrats.

Launching some form of sports betting or expanded gambling in the state, an oft-discussed prospect for years, seemed promising at the start of the session but ultimately faltered down the stretch. Additionally, lawmakers did not pass House Bill 1180, which would have revamped the state’s film tax credits.

However, lawmakers did sign off on House Bill 1105, the Georgia Criminal Alien Track and Report Act of 2024, which aims to force local jurisdictions to comply with federal immigration laws. The push took renewed urgency following the February slaying of a college student in Athens, allegedly at the hands of someone who entered the country illegally.