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Senate committee restores funds for local colleges
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The Senate Appropriations Committee has restored $6.2 million in construction funds for a new academic building at Gainesville State College. The panel also gave North Georgia College & State University an additional $6 million for campus renovation projects.

Gainesville State officials had complained that a $31.2 million building had been designed when House budget writers reduced the project to $25 million.
Without the new building, college president Martha Nesbitt has said she may have to take steps to limit enrollment at the Gainesville campus for the fall 2011 semester.

North Georgia College initially had sought $16.4 million in capital expenditures, however, both the governor and the House had cut the package to $10.4 million.

Kate Maine, a spokeswoman for North Georgia, said the college was encouraged by the news.

"But this isn’t final," she said.

If approved, the funds would be for major renovations at several buildings on the Dahlonega campus. The largest, a face-lift for Young Hall, would expand the building and also bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If the college does not receive the full amount, Maine said some portions of the renovation will be scaled back or eliminated altogether.

Maine also said that $600,079 for the college’s leadership initiative was restored. The money would fund positions in the college’s military corps of cadets and in each of the schools within the college to bolster leadership skills among students.

Senate’s budget writers also OK’d more state dollars for Medicaid.

State workers — including some who already have been forced to take furlough days without pay — will pay more for their health insurance, under the proposal.

Whether large-scale layoffs or furloughs will be needed in the coming budget year depends on whether the economy bounces back, taking state revenues with it.

But as the budget stands now, only a relative few layoffs are scattered throughout the 2010 budget plan.

The budget was approved Monday by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Senate plan puts more money into Medicaid for skyrocketing growth in the health program for the poor. The 2010 budget covers the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The full Senate is scheduled to take up the package Wednesday. That leaves only Thursday for House and Senate negotiators to work out a compromise on the budget, the only item that is required of the General Assembly before its scheduled adjournment on Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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