BRADENTON, Fla. — The Georgia General Assembly ended its annual session last Thursday after passing a $38.5 billion budget for fiscal 2011 representing a $100 million increase over the current budget.
The spending plan, which takes effect July 1, also includes authorizations for the sale of $870.1 million of general obligation bonds for various programs. In his last budget recommendation, Gov. Sonny Perdue had proposed $900 million in debt issuance.
The bond program would provide $167.8 million for public schools, $231.2 million for universities and technical colleges, $202 million for transportation, and the remainder of the debt would be used for state agency programs.
The largest single project to be financed was $68.4 million of bonds for the Georgia Ports Authority to deepen the Savannah River harbor. Another $10 million in debt will go toward assisting the College Football Hall of Fame with its move to Atlanta from Indiana.
The 2011 budget is propped up with $1 billion of federal stimulus funding and increases in various fees.
Lawmakers also passed a 1.45% fee on the net revenues of hospitals and will use the funds to close a gap in the Medicaid budget over the next three years.
“Together we have maintained Georgia’s long history of conservative fiscal management,” Perdue said in his last address to the Legislature Thursday. “We continue to stand in a select group of states with a triple-A bond rating, which has saved more than $100 million in debt service.”
“There is no question that these are tough times,” said Perdue, a Republican who is term-limited out of office this year. “No other administration in Georgia’s history has had to deal with economic downturns like we’ve seen … Georgia will be more prepared to lead the nation in economic recovery because we have worked together — encouraging each other — putting our state ahead of ourselves.”
Two programs proposed by Perdue were passed by lawmakers. One program creates a transportation funding plan to divide the state into 12 regions. Voters in each region will be asked in separate referendums in 2012 if they want to increase the sales tax by one cent to fund transportation projects. The tax would only be imposed in those regions that pass the referendum.
The legislature also passed Perdue’s proposal to phase out the state’s portion of homeowners’ property taxes over the next five years.