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Gainesville State College funds back in budget
Lanier Tech projects also funded again by Senate
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ATLANTA -- The Georgia Senate unanimously approved a $21.4 billion state budget Friday that restores $2.4 million in design funds for a new academic building at Gainesville State College.

The money, which had been in Gov. Sonny Perdue's budget request, was cut by the state House.
Senators also restored funds for construction projects for Lanier Technical College's campuses in Cumming and Dawsonville.

The Senate plans also boosts salaries for teachers and other state employees by 2.5 percent but also slashes overall spending as state tax collections slow.

Perdue lowered the revenue estimates for the fiscal year that begins July 1 by $245 million. He said spending cuts are needed because the economy is sputtering. The state also expects to dip into its $1.5 billion reserve to keep state government running.

The budget that passed Friday restores some of the austerity cuts the state's schools have been wrestling with in recent years. Republican lawmakers wanted to replace the full $141 million in proposed cuts for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Instead, they were able to add just $56 million.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack Hill said he would have liked to have provided even more to schools but he was handcuffed by budget cuts.

The Senate spending plan also restores $13 million to Georgia's prisons that the House had cut. The state's inmate population is growing at one of the fastest rates in the nation.

"We want the public protected," Hill told senators Friday as they prepared to vote on the spending plan. "We are not going to allow prisons to be closed."

Republicans in the House complained that the Senate version slashed a proposed pay hike for corrections officers. Low salaries for the corrections officers is making it difficult for them to recruit and retain staff.

The parents of HOPE scholarship students bound for private colleges in Georgia got some good news in the Senate spending plan. The HOPE scholarship award would rise from $3,000 to $3,500 a year at private schools, the first increase in at least a decade, Senate budget officials said.

The House and Senate eliminated $500,000 that was supposed to fund an education effort by the Secretary of State's office on Georgia's new voter ID law.

Elections officials had wanted to do additional outreach to let voters know about the new photo ID mandate in advance of the fall's presidential contest.

The House has already passed its version of the budget. The two chambers must now reconcile the two blueprints before the end of the 40-day session next Friday.