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Legislature considers budget with more funds for education

Gov. Nathan Deal, right, gives his 2014 "State of the State" speech before the Georgia General Assembly as Speaker of the House David Ralston, left, a UNG alumnus, and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, center, listen.

With a change in election timeline that is expected to keep the Georgia General Assembly's 2014 session moving quickly, the 2015 budget is one of the top pieces of legislation presented this term.

Gov. Nathan Deal's 2015 budget recommendations include more funds for education, including modest funding for merit-pay and employee recruitment and retention salary adjustments.

"[An] important element of job growth is the availability of a trained and reliable workforce. … In order to fill the needs of a growing economy, we need more of our citizens to acquire education and skills beyond high school," Deal said. "Since fiscal year 2012, nearly 50 cents of every dollar of new revenues has been dedicated to education. In the budget I am sending you for fiscal year 2015, almost 82 percent of new revenue receipts are dedicated to education, with 68 percent of those new revenues going to K-12 alone."

Also, the $1.93 billion 2015 fiscal year budget request from the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) includes $2.5 million to build an annex on the University of North Georgia's Oconee Campus. In his budget presentation to the Joint Appropriations Committee at the beginning of the session, USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby highlighted the open source textbook published by UNG as an example of how the system is working to maintain student affordability and increase effectiveness and efficiency.

"(USG) staff, working with the University Press of North Georgia, has published an open-source electronic history textbook that potentially saves each USG eCore History student almost $100; similar efforts are underway for other disciplines as well," Huckaby said.

In other legislation related to higher education, a provision to change the state's weapons' carry laws to allow guns on college and university campuses was dropped.

Click here to read the USG legislative update, which includes excerpts from Deal's "State of the State" speech and Huckaby's remarks to the Joint Appropriations Committee. USG also provides a legislative tracking site to easily follow legislation that the USG Government Relations team is monitoring when the legislature is in session.

On Jan. 29, UNG was honored at the state capitol in Atlanta in separate resolutions passed by the Georgia Senate and House marking "UNG Day" at the Capitol. The resolutions recognized the university's status as The Military College of Georgia and one of only six federally designated senior military colleges in the nation. UNG also was recognized for a commitment to providing a more educated Georgia and maintaining affordability and high academic value. UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs was scheduled to speak on the House floor and several students, faculty, staff and alumni had planned to meet with legislators, but plans for the visit were canceled due to the winter storm that hit the state.

Senate Resolution 796 was co-sponsored by Sen. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta, 21st District; Sen. Jack Murphy of Cumming, 27th District; Sen. Bill Cowsert of Athens, 46th District; Sen. Butch Miller of Gainesville, 49th District; Sen. Steve Gooch of Dahlonega, 51st District; and Charlie Bethel of Dalton, 54th District. The senators represent areas served by UNG's four campuses, and Miller and Gooch are UNG alumni.

House Resolution 1165 was co-sponsored by Speaker of the House David Ralston, who also represents the 7th District; and 9th District Rep. Kevin Tanner of Dawsonville. Both lawmakers are UNG alumni.

Feb. 4 marks Day 16 in the legislative calendar; the session lasts 40 days.

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