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Perdue wants to cut taxes for owners of property, cars
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ATLANTA — Gov. Sonny Perdue proposed the largest budget in Georgia history on Wednesday while floating a plan that would cut taxes for owners of property and cars.

Perdue laid out the highlights of his $21.4 billion budget during his annual State of the State address to a joint session of the state legislature.

The governor sounded a theme of Georgia as more than a regional leader.

"That triumphant drumbeat of our progress proclaims a new anthem and a new era for Georgia," Perdue said. "Not just as the capital of the New South, not just another great American city — but an international leader — an economic, cultural, technological capital."

The tax plan Perdue revealed on Wednesday would, if approved by the legislature and voters, erase the state ad valorem tax that residents pay on their property and automobiles. Local taxes for operation of municipal and county government and local schools, the bulk of property tax bills — would continue in effect.

The $94 million tax cut would begin in 2009 and must be approved by voters at the ballot box as a constitutional amendment. First it must receive a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the state legislature.

The property tax portion of the plan is expected to mean an average savings of about $30 per household.

Perdue’s plan is not the only tax matter being offered this session. House Speaker Glenn Richardson, who originally proposed eliminating all ad valorem taxes, is pushing to replace the school portion of property taxes with a sales tax. In the Senate, a plan has been offered to cap reassessment of property.

Perdue wants to funnel $53 million into the state’s struggling trauma care network, including cash-strapped Grady Memorial Hospital, which is hoping for a state bailout to avoid going out of business. Part of the funding would come from a plan that would boost fines on so-called super speeders, a proposal the governor first offered last year.

"I want to make this clear: This is not a blank check," Perdue said. "The elected leaders of this state, both in the executive branch and the General Assembly, expect — and demand — the recipients of these tax dollars to serve as good stewards of these funds."

The Republican governor said Wednesday he will also continue to push for his $142 million tax cut for upper-income retirees. The plan — the centerpiece of Perdue’s successful re-election bid in 2006 — failed to win approval last year.

Perdue’s proposal includes $70 million to build reservoirs and improve the state’s water systems. Another $42 million in bonds would go to fund water and sewer infrastructure loans for local communities. All told, the budget includes $120 million for reservoir development and water and sewer improvements.

"This is not a silver bullet — more room for storage will not make the rains come," Perdue said. "But investing in reservoirs is part of the formula for smart growth."

He added: "We will not allow others outside this state to hamper our progress by limiting our access to the waters that fall on our land. This will not happen on this governor’s watch."

On the transportation front, Perdue proposes creating a $50 million fund to help local governments to speed up projects for roads, bridges, rail and airports.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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