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Local projects are on Perdues budget
Cuts to spare colleges expansion, North Hall park
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, center, shakes hands with legislators as he enters the House chamber to deliver the State of the State address Wednesday. - photo by The Associated Press

Comprehensive coverage of the 2009 legislative session

Perdue’s budget proposal

Economic development: Reduces funds for a state "branding" campaign as well as money for domestic and global marketing to recruit business to the state.

Education: Continues to cut formula funding for schools, which districts rely on for their day-to-day operating expenses. Freezes pay raises for teachers and eliminates dozens of vacant slots in the higher education system.

Environment: Cuts dozens of unfilled jobs, including 10 conservation rangers and 18 staffers in the environmental protection division. It slashes advertising funds for the Clean Air Campaign by $180,000, suspends eight public swimming pools and cuts funding for golf courses by $1.5 million.

Health care: Cuts $350,000 in funding for graduate medical education program and slashes grants to the Mercer University School of Medicine and the Morehouse School of Medicine by 8.7 percent. Cuts funding for a range of medical programs, including $3 million for "non-medically necessary" support services for children with mental health needs.

Law enforcement: Cuts funding for Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime labs, which will slow the processing of some crime scene evidence. It also cuts arson investigators from the Georgia Forestry Commission and closes four prisons around the state.

Legal: Calls for a 13-day furlough for most Georgia prosecutors, cuts unfilled positions in the attorney general’s office and cuts funding for conflict cases — those involving multiple defendants — in the public defender system by $1.3 million.

Social services: Reduces the number of child protective service caseworkers. Slashes money for elder abuse investigations and prevention. Cuts more than $2 million in meals for senior citizens.

Taxes: Freezes the Homeowner Tax Relief Grant, worth $428 million.

Transportation: It slashes more than $40 million from state road projects.

Source: The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget

Gov. Sonny Perdue proposed nearly $56 million in new construction projects in Northeast Georgia in his proposed fiscal year 2010 budget released Wednesday.

An academic building at Gainesville State College, renovations at North Georgia College & State University and a new state park on Lake Lanier were included in Perdue’s $1.2 billion bond package.

Perdue told legislators that state building projects could create 20,000 construction jobs in the next year.

His comments came during his annual State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly at the state Capitol.

Perdue included $31.2 million for an academic building on the Oakwood campus of Gainesville State College. The four-story building, with 130,000 square feet, would be the largest at the college. Design of the building is already under way, funded by $2.4 million in bonds from the current budget.

Also in the new budget is $14 million for design and construction of Don Carter State Park on Lake Lanier in North Hall. The project had received initial design funds in the current state budget.

State Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, was going through the 436-page budget when he learned that the two projects in his home area had made the cut.

"That’s good news," Rogers said. "The Don Carter State Park property has been sitting there for nine years."

Perdue also proposed $10.4 million for renovation of four historic buildings on the campus of North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega. Spokeswoman Kate Maine said the college had asked for $6 million for major renovations at Barnes Hall, the Stewart Building, the Hoag Student Center and Young Hall. The college also sought funds for campuswide technology improvements, including video conferencing capabilities, digital whiteboards, projectors and video display systems.

The budget also includes $360,000 for an outdoor therapeutic program in White County through the Department of Human Resources.

All of the construction projects will be funded by long-term state bonds.

Though the new buildings are welcome news, Perdue says Georgia is facing a $2.2 billion budget shortfall that will make deep cuts necessary across state government.
Teachers and other state employees will not get a pay raise under the plan.

Perdue called for legislators to remain optimistic "even in the face of difficult economic cycles."

Perdue is proposing a $19.2 billion amended budget for the current fiscal year, down from $21.2 billion, and a $20.2 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Monday and are constitutionally required to approve the budget before their 40-day session ends.

Perdue acknowledged the "job of budget cutting is hard right now." He proposes pulling more than $600 million from the state’s rainy day reserve fund, which now stands at $1.2 billion.

"Political mantras aside, cutting more than 10 percent from a budget cannot be achieved by simply cutting waste," the Republican governor said. "While we have worked for six years to do more with less, at some point, in business or government, it becomes less with less."

Perdue promised to again push for "super speeder" legislation to funnel $60 million to the state’s struggling trauma care network. He first began pushing in 2007 to increase fines for people caught driving over 85 mph on any Georgia highways, a plan that has failed to win legislative approval. Perdue has argued that reckless drivers cause accidents that clog hospital emergency rooms.

Perdue would close the budget gap, in part, by eliminating Homeowner Tax Relief Grants the state pays to local governments, which are then passed along to homeowners as tax credits. They average about $200 to $300 per household.

Their loss could mean homeowners could see their property taxes rise. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has pledged to restore the funding.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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