BRADENTON, Fla. — Eight of 11 legislatures in the Southeast began annual sessions in the last 10 days, and budget details, as well as debt prospects, have been avoided by the four governors who have addressed lawmakers so far.
In fact, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue yesterday broke with tradition and announced he would present his budget recommendations tomorrow instead of discussing them in his state of the state address.
Perdue, a Republican who is in his last term, focused on how people historically have waded through hard times, and they will again.
“I believe I stand with most Georgians when I say, I am for doing with a little less if it means a lighter burden and a brighter future for the next generation,” Perdue said.
Perdue proposed tying teacher pay to student achievement and said his budget would include additional funding for the state’s mental health institutions, which are under fire for violating federal standards.
Triple-A rated Georgia faces plummeting revenue collections that could require up to $1.5 billion in budget cuts.
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, another term-limited Republican, promised lawmakers in a joint session Tuesday night that he would submit a general fund budget for fiscal 2011 that would maintain spending levels with the current year. A separate budget will be submitted for education that will increase funding for schools by more than $400 million, he pledged.
“No cuts for state agencies, more funding for our schools, without raising anybody’s taxes,” Riley said.
Riley also implored lawmakers to pass his recommendations this year, which include a $1,500 tax credit to businesses that bring people back to work and a $1,500 tax credit for businesses that create new jobs in counties with the highest unemployment.
He also urged lawmakers to reject proposals to allow more gambling in the state and to focus on ethics reform.
Lawmakers complained that Riley was counting on bolstering the state budget with federal funding that has not yet been approved. Alabama faces a general fund deficit that could run as high as $600 million.
Riley unveiled his budget late yesterday but details were not available at press time.
In Tennessee late Tuesday, Gov. Phil Bredesen opened a special session of the Legislature to focus on education reform aimed at putting the state in line for some of the $4.35 billion from the federal government’s “Race to the Top” competition provided in last year’s stimulus bill.
Bredesen, also in his final term, said he hoped to win $485 million from the new federal education program. But it requires lawmakers to adopt many new standards by next Tuesday so they can be included in the state’s application for the funding.
The special session was called by Bredesen to run concurrently with the regular session but it allows lawmakers to focus specifically on education issues for the first week.
State tax collections have fallen below budgeted estimates for the first four months of the current fiscal year. Bredesen plans to release his budget recommendations Feb. 1.
Kentucky’s legislative session began last week, but Gov. Steve Beshear gave lawmakers few specifics about his plan for dealing with an anticipated deficit. Beshear, a Democrat, is due to release his 2010-12 recommended budget next Tuesday.
The Mississippi Legislature began its session last week, and Gov. Haley Barbour is scheduled to deliver his state of the state address Monday. Governors in Virginia and West Virginia were scheduled to address the opening of their legislative sessions last night.
South Carolina lawmakers began their session Tuesday, but Gov. Mark Sanford — another term-limited Republican — doesn’t deliver his state of the state address until Jan. 20.
Representatives yesterday voted 102 to 11 to censure Sanford for an extramarital affair and improper use of state aircraft. He also faces more than 30 charges before the state ethics commission.