BRADENTON, Fla. — Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal Tuesday signed a $34.05 billion budget for fiscal 2012 into law.
The spending plan takes effect July 1 and is $5.6 billion less than the current year’s amended budget.
The decrease is due partly to $1.08 billion in federal stimulus funding in this year’s budget that will not be available in fiscal 2012.
The upcoming budget includes average state agency budget cuts of 7%, increases in health insurance costs that state employees must pay, and bond authorizations totaling $632.4 million.
“Working together, the General Assembly and I crafted a conservative budget that reduced the size of government, funded our state’s education, health care, transportation, and public safety priorities, and avoided any tax increases,” the Republican governor said in a statement.
The only vetoes Deal applied to the budget forwarded to him by the Legislature were to eliminate $42.6 million of 20-year bonds for 11 university system projects that were to pay design or partial construction costs.
Deal said he was against the use of long-term bonding to finance design work because it has a “short-term, limited-life and does not result in a physical asset.” Long-term financing should not be used for projects if the amount is insufficient to complete construction, he added.
On Tuesday, Deal also vetoed Senate Bill 140, which would have increased the bonding authority for the Georgia Higher Education Facilities Authority to $400 million from $300 million.
SB 140 also would have lifted a $200 million cap on the amount of “self-liquidating” revenue bonds that could be sold by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which operates Atlanta’s convention center, Centennial Olympic Park, and the Georgia Dome. The Dome is home of the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons.
The bill said that a project financed with bonds would be self-liquidating if the revenues, rents, or earnings of the authority would be sufficient to pay the cost of principal and interest on the debt as well as the project’s operations and maintenance costs.
The GWCCA can issue bonds to build and renovate various structures, including multipurpose stadiums. It has a principal amount of $130.5 million of refunding revenue bonds outstanding through 2021.
However, the authority is negotiating with the Falcons for the construction of a $700 million open-air stadium that would exceed the cap if the entire facility is financed through the GWCCA.
Some of the World Congress Center’s facilities have been financed with state general obligation bonds. The budget signed by Deal includes $6.26 million of GO debt for GWCCA building renovations and parking-related improvements.
In February, the authority entered into negotiations with the Falcons to determine how much the team would contribute to the stadium project and develop a plan of finance.
The veto of SB 140 presents no hardship for the GWCCA. Additionally, there is no current agreement or plan in place regarding a new stadium,” said authority spokesman Mark Geiger. “At this point, everything is still negotiable and all options are still on the table.”
Those options include a renovating the Georgia Dome and building an open-air stadium, he said. In vetoing SB 140, Deal said removing the cap would introduce operational risk and “the determination of self-liquidating is, at best, ambiguous.”
He said the bill did not give the executive and legislative branch enough input into approval of the bonds and, he noted, that the GWCCA had not requested the legislation.
Earlier this month, Deal signed a bill granting authority for public-private partnerships to be used in the financing and operation of reservoirs. He also approved $45.75 million of general obligation bond financing for reservoir projects in the state budget.