Gov. Nathan Deal has signed an $18.3 billion budget, but only after vetoing funding for several university building projects, including a $2.2 million request from Lanier Technical College.
The college had asked for the funding to design and build a Public Safety/Allied Health and Economic Development Building.
Deal said he struck this and 10 other university building projects, worth more than $40 million, because they were being funded by 20-year bonds.
"The design is short-term limited-life and does not result in a physical asset," Deal wrote in the veto message. "The state's priority should be to fund construction for existing projects for which we have already paid for the design."
The decision came as a blow to those who have been working for years to secure funding for the building.
"Certainly it is disappointing to learn the governor has vetoed funds that had been appropriated for the design of a building that is desperately needed at Lanier Tech. The design would have been for a building designated for use for health care, public safety and economic development programs, all of which are badly needed in the area. Being able to enroll more students in these areas would be a significant boon to the local workforce, and with the veto now will be delayed yet again," said Dennis Stockton, chairman of the Lanier Tech board and publisher of The Times.
"It's unfortunate to see the design funds vetoed over what amounts to a difference of opinion over how state bond money should be used. Rep. Terry England and Sen. Butch Miller had championed the Lanier Tech allocations through their respective houses of the General Assembly and we thought the battle had been won. We have been working for more than seven years to secure these funds," Stockton said.
"We can't add badly needed programs because we don't have space. The problem is going to be worse in the future, as demand continues to grow. This decision hurts not only Lanier Tech, but also economic development throughout North Georgia. Our mission is to educate and train students to take their place in the workforce, and we can't do that without facilities. This has been a high priority for years. We have been good stewards of the state's money in the past, but now it's back to the drawing board as we prepare to try again next year," he added.
The approved budget also increases health insurance premiums for state employees and cobbles together money to go after tax cheats.
The spending plan covers the fiscal year that begins July 1. Georgia is absorbing the loss of $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars in the budget.
Deal also vetoed nine bills from the legislative session that ended last month. One would have required that campaign literature and other communication state clearly who was paying for it and whether it was authorized by the candidate.
In his veto message on Tuesday, Deal cited the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance, which held that political donations are a protected form of speech.
"The issue of campaign finance reform has been a consistent theme in Washington, D.C., and federal court decisions have shown that any type of limitation on the First Amendment right to engage in political speech will receive tough scrutiny," he said.
"Such tough scrutiny would be especially likely where a violation of limitations on political speech would constitute a crime — as this legislation provides," Deal said.
Among the other bills Deal vetoed:
- A measure related to coin-operated amusement machines. Deal said while the legislation is designed to clarify a statute that often leads to murky interpretations and unintended results, he doesn't believe it provides sufficient clarity or enforcement powers to shut down Internet cafés.
- Legislation designed to create accounts that could accept up to $60,000 to help those with developmental disabilities, Deal said the bill was well intentioned but not narrowly tailored enough to apply only to those with special needs but would instead apply broadly to anyone who meets income limits.
Associated Press contributed to this report.