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House unveils amended Ga. budget plan
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ATLANTA (AP) — An amended $40.9 billion budget plan in Georgia would restore what amounted to cuts for rural school districts and reduce some of the funding cuts for a school nutrition program, a ranking Republican said Monday.

The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Terry England, unveiled a GOP-backed budget plan for the financial year starting in July that alters a proposal submitted by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. The plan comes after Georgia has endured years of budget cuts as tax revenues sank below a financial high-water mark set just before the Great Recession.

England said House lawmakers disagreed with Deal's proposal to take funds meant for schools with small student populations — typically, in rural Georgia — and combine it with state money that is given to all districts. England said the result would have been to dilute the money flowing to rural districts, resulting in a funding cut.

"You're talking about systems with about 200 or 300 students," he said. "Getting a $150,000 to them is like winning the lottery."

In other moves, House lawmakers have proposed softening some of the cuts proposed to a school nutrition program.

Georgia is spending less money than expected on Medicaid, a government-run health insurance program for the aged, blind, disabled and poor families with children. Since program spending is down compared to projections, England said the state can avoid proposed cuts in payments to medical providers.

The plan endorses Deal's call to restore the number of instructional days in the state's pre-kindergarten program from 170 to 180. The program was trimmed during earlier budget cuts.

The spending proposal must still be approved by the full House. If approved, it would next head to the Senate for consideration.