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State's Democrats might help Georgia get stimulus money
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Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue has heard the promises of help from Washington, but is not waiting on an influx of federal dollars to begin working on the state’s projected $2.2 billion budget shortfall.

Perdue has accepted President-elect Barack Obama’s invitation to attend the inaugural and will be on hand when the 44th president take his oath.

"I look forward to attending President-elect Obama’s inauguration," Perdue told the General Assembly during his annual State of the State address last Wednesday.

"I am confident that he and the new administration will do everything in their power to meet the challenges that face this nation," he added.

Perdue told The Times in December and repeated again last week that Georgia won’t take a wait-and-see attitude.

"We cannot plan by relying on the unknown, and the budgets I present to you today are balanced and do not assume money from Washington," he said.

But while trying to cut $2 billion from the state budget, a few extra federal dollars won’t hurt.

Democrats in the U.S. House last week unveiled an $825 billion plan that would pump money into Medicaid, school districts and road projects.

The package’s fate on Capitol Hill is far from certain. Still, state officials are keeping a close eye on Washington, just in case.

While conservative Republicans nationally and in Georgia have expressed ambivalence about the costly stimulus plan, Democrats are by and large on board.

The House plan calls for $30 billion for road and bridge construction, primarily repairs, rather than new roads.

State Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said the state should take advantage of the money.

"If they’re printing it, we ought to take it," Rogers said.

He added he was hopeful that a major face-lift for Clarks Bridge, near the rowing venue, would be the kind of project that would receive federal help.

"That bridge has been talked about for three years," he said.

If there is infrastructure money for schools, Rogers said the current Gainesville Middle School building needs a new roof.

But U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, is concerned about paying for the package.

"It’s the largest debt that this country has imposed upon itself," Deal said. "You can’t go into it without some concern about how we pay for this. If they are truly not stimulus items, then they don’t generate income by stimulating the economy that will help pay for it."

Deal gave several examples, such as funding for the arts and additional funds for digital television converter boxes, as projects that will not provide economic stimulus.

While Georgia is not counting on the money, it likely will seek what might become available. As a strongly Republican state, political leaders might tap some Democrats to pursue federal money.

A Perdue aide acknowledged the state’s Democrats will be helpful but insisted the governor still has some power of his own.

"It overstates it to say that the new administration won’t take Georgia’s phone call because we have a Republican governor," Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.