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House Republicans to unveil $19 billion budget plan

ATLANTA (AP) -- Georgia would spend $19.2 billion next year under a budget proposal adopted Monday by a House committee that slightly eases a few education funding cuts.

That plan would slightly increase spending above what Republican Gov. Nathan Deal first recommended earlier this year, though it still largely follows the blueprint from his administration. The budget proposal comes as Georgia fitfully recovers from a recession that prompted state leaders to hack billions of dollars from the budget.

"There's not a whole lot of money to fight over," said Rep. Terry England, the Republican chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

While tax revenues have grown modestly, most of that extra money has been consumed by the increased cost of health and education programs, England said.

The spending plan adopted by his committee will next head to the House floor for a full vote. It still requires approval from the state Senate and Deal's signature before becoming law.

Among their changes, House lawmakers decided to increase the fuel funds for the Georgia State Patrol since the cost of gasoline has gone up. The committee also rejected a proposal from Deal that would have given local school leaders the ability to spend nearly $16 million earmarked for student nutrition programs on other aspects of schooling. The Deal administration has said local leaders need financial flexibility as they manage their schools out of a deep recession.

England was less enthusiastic about changes to the nutrition program.

"The kids need to be able to have warm meals," he said. "A lot of kids, the only warm meals they have is at school."

House lawmakers rejected a similar funding change for school nurses and eased -- though did not eliminate -- a funding cut for agricultural education.

Deal spokesman Brian Robinson declined to comment on the budget.

In other changes, the House plan a proposal to give raises to assistant district attorneys and reinstate funding for victims' advocates.