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Property tax break revived for Georgia homeowners
Perdue reverses course due to federal stimulus funds
Georgia-Budget Bear
Gov. Sonny Perdue, R-Ga, signs House Bill 143, which continues funding for homeowners tax relief, as Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, R-Gainesville, left, and House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, look over his shoulders Feb. 17 in Atlanta.

An infusion of cash from the federal stimulus package will give Georgia the money for a homeowner tax break after all.

Gov. Sonny Perdue on Tuesday signed legislation designed to funnel $428 million in state dollars to the
homeowner tax relief grant this year. The grant is worth about $200 to $300 per household.

Local officials had warned that they would have to send out supplemental tax bills without the state money.

Even as he signed the bill on Tuesday, Perdue has called the grants “ineffective” in keeping property taxes down.

The governor was joined at the announcement by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker Glenn Richardson.

“During this tough economy, now is not the time for Georgians to decide between paying an additional tax bill or meeting the immediate needs of their families,” Cagle said.

Perdue also lowered the state’s revenues by $450 million for the current fiscal year. He is ordering state agencies to cut an additional 1 percent from their budgets.

Meanwhile, state and local officials are trying to determine just how much the federal stimulus plan will contribute to the state.

Chris Riley, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, said the congressman’s office was already working with state and local governments on the stimulus funds.

“We started making contact and assisting local and state agencies when the plans for a stimulus were first announced,” Riley said. “The allocation process is going to be agency by agency in an application process. There were no earmarks.”

Riley said corresponding state agencies will receive the funds and pass them through to local governments.

Danny Lewis, executive director of the Georgia Mountains Regional Development Center, said his agency, which assists local governments with the application process, has already been involved in conferences about the money.

“We’ve been going to meetings in Atlanta and will be in Washington next week,” Lewis said. “We’re going up to digest what they’re telling us about how quickly the money will come down.”

The Center for American Progress has prepared a state-by-state breakdown of surplus funds showing Georgia will receive a total of $15.84 billion in federal funds. The Obama administration’s web site, recovery.gov, estimates that the stimulus package will create or save 107,000 jobs in the state during the next two years.

Lewis said one term that has become a hot topic among potential recipients is “shovel-ready,” a term used only once by the president.

“That’s the buzz word now and everybody has a different interpretation of what is shovel-ready,” Lewis said. “Nobody has all the answers and we’re trying to piece together the information that is coming down from Washington.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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