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Deal signs $37.1B budget; touts spending restraint

ATLANTA (AP) -- Gov. Nathan Deal signed a $37.1 billion total budget for fiscal year 2014 on Tuesday, saying the plan balances the budget without raising taxes and reduces government spending.

The Republican governor signed the budget, which includes a mix of state and federal funds, during an event at the Capitol with a handful of state lawmakers.

"The General Assembly and I have once again enacted a budget that holds the line on spending, while funding the priorities that continue to help make Georgia the No. 1 place in the country in which to do business and create jobs," Deal said.

State agencies will face another round of cuts even though revenue numbers are increasing. Deal pointed to growth in education enrollment and Medicaid costs as the reason.

Under the budget, departments will see 3 percent in budget cuts with the exception of a few agencies dealing with public safety and human services. The budget includes $50 million in bonds for the deepening of the Savannah Port and $45 million in bonds for a new cancer research building at Georgia Regents University.

"I've always said, the greatest challenge to governance is the challenge to restrain yourselves in the good times. In the hard times, restraint is a matter of necessity. In the good times, it's a matter of discipline," Deal said. "As we hopefully move into the good times, all of us have agreed that that is the challenge that leadership faces. It is too often tempting to say, 'Well, we have a whole lot more money than we did last year, so let me tell you about all the good ideas I have to spend it.'"

The governor did not make any line-item vetoes. The budget also includes $246.7 million to cover the growth in expenses for Medicaid and PeachCare and $12.9 million to return the pre-kindergarten calendar to 180 days.

The budget also allows for a 3 percent increase in the award amounts under the state's HOPE scholarship and HOPE grant programs.