BRADENTON, Fla. — Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue on Friday unveiled budget cuts for the current fiscal year and proposed an $18.2 billion budget for fiscal 2011 that includes $900 million of debt issuance.
The debt plan includes $300 million for transportation projects and the governor proposed that triple-A rated Georgia issue the same amount every year for 10 years to ultimately provide $3 billion for such projects. Voters would have to approve a sales-tax increase to fund that proposal.
Perdue’s amended budget recommendation requires three days of furloughs and budget cuts that will ultimately trim $1.2 billion from the $18.6 billion current budget. That will require another 3% cut to the primary education budget and as much as 9% cuts for state agencies before the fiscal year ends June 30.
Perdue said he anticipates the “freefall” in revenue collections to abate in fiscal 2011. His proposed $18.2 billion spending plan eliminates $135 million in state programs he said the state cannot afford. It also includes a 1.6 % fee on hospitals — a fee that he has unsuccessfully recommended before.
Perdue included $900 million in bond-funded projects. Those include $168 million for construction, equipment, and school buses at primary schools, $121 million for the state’s universities, $44 million for technical schools, $68 million for the deepening of the Savannah River harbor, and $300 million for transportation projects.
Bonding for transportation is dependent on a new program Perdue outlined before releasing his budget. The program could provide as much as $3 billion in funding over a decade. The debt plan would be supported by a comprehensive program aimed at improving the state’s transportation network, according to Perdue.
The program would be dependent on a statewide referendum in which voters in 12 regional planning boundaries, or special tax districts, would be asked to approve a 1% sales tax increase. Some or all of the districts could implement the tax.
“These district lines are important because they recognize our state’s regional business centers, and the areas from which those centers draw consumers,” Perdue said. “This approach will mean dollars spent in a region remain in that region, and the projects will benefit the entire region.”
The new funding source would eliminate dependence on the declining motor fuel taxes, Perdue said, adding: “This is the ultimate accountability system, the DOT will be responsible for delivering projects, and the legislature will answer to the voting taxpayers in deciding whether to continue making these investments.”
The transportation plan will be considered by the General Assembly whose annual session began Jan. 11 and runs through late March.