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Governor's budget plans
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Gov. Sonny Perdue formally submitted his FY09 budget recommendations in his annual State of the State Address on Jan. 16 before a joint session.

For FY09, the governor proposed $131,204,202 for local roads, which is the second highest total since FY1999. He also called for $50 million in total funds for the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank, which is a revolving fund for local communities.

Water and land conservation
In both the amended FY08 and FY09 budgets, the governor proposed $70 million to fund reservoirs and make improvements, $42 million to fund statewide water and sewer loans, $5.6 million to match federal drinking water funds, and $30 million to acquire lands for preservation and conservation.

Health insurance
The governor requested $17 million for the Health Insurance Partnership. This serves as an incentive for small businesses to partner with employees to provide low cost health insurance. Coupled with Medicaid federal funds, the total of $46.5 million will insure about 25,000 employees.

Tax relief
The governor called for a constitutional amendment to eliminate the state portion of property taxes that residents pay on homes and automobiles. This will eliminate the state quarter mill. ad valorem tax, providing approximately $94 million in tax relief to Georgia property owners, beginning in fiscal year 2010. There will also be an additional $10 million of Homeowners Tax Relief Grants for a total of $439 million in FY09.

Education (K-12)
The governor called for a Very Important Parent (VIP) Recruiter program for at-risk elementary, middle and high schools. For this, he requested about $14,250,000 in FY09. He also requested $65 million in one-time funds for school buses and technology in the amended FY08 budget. The $100 gift card for teachers to buy materials for classrooms will be continued. Also, teachers will remain the highest paid in the Southeast due to a pay raise of 2.5 percent for k-12 teachers taking effect September 2008.

Gov. Perdue called for an increase in the size of the Georgia State Patrol (GSP) by establishing a Regional Cadet Program and providing additional trooper schools. This would result in 200 more state patrol officers out on the roads. The governor also proposed a little over a million dollars to create the Identity Theft Unit, which will be incorporated into the GBI to protect Georgia’s citizens from identity theft. The ’09 budget funds approximately 2,000 additional prison beds from expansions at existing facilities. Finally, there will be expanded funding for more probation officers.

Economic development
The governor requested $52 million to match federal funds to deepen the Savannah Harbor from 42 feet to 48 feet and $25 million to make infrastructure improvements on Jekyll Island.

Next week’s column will include higher education, health care, and other FY09 proposals.

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