0

Perdue vetoes midyear budget

ATLANTA - Gov. Sonny Perdue on Thursday night vetoed the midyear budget adopted by the General Assembly, charging that a tax cut hastily approved by lawmakers leaves a $142 million gap in state services.

"I don't think the public appreciates us coming up here and not meeting the needs they have,'' Perdue said during a news conference featuring a photo opportunity of the governor vetoing the $700 million budget document.

The veto came at the end of the 39th day of the 40-day legislative session, leaving just one day for Perdue and legislative leaders to work out their differences. Otherwise, the governor vowed to call lawmakers back to the Capitol for a special session.

The dispute began last week when House and Senate conferees agreed to resolve a sticky logjam over the midyear budget by giving Georgians a $142 million property tax cut. Negotiators for the two sides had become stuck when the Senate tried to cut $200 million in "pork'' projects from the midyear spending plan and the House objected.

Perdue complained about the deal at the time, noting that the $142 million was nearly identical to legislation he had proposed eliminating taxes on retirement income.

House leaders refused to let the bill reach the floor, saying they preferred to consider it next year as part of more comprehensive tax reforms.

"I believe if I had proposed in the dark of the night a $142 million revenue change, I would have been appropriately castigated,'' the governor said Thursday night. "It was a desperate solution for a compromise that was not well thought out.''

Perdue began threatening to veto the midyear budget earlier this week if the legislature didn't delay the planned end of the session to allow the governor and legislative leaders to resolve their differences.

But House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, vowed throughout the week that he was determined that the session adjourn today as scheduled.

After word got out that Perdue planned to veto the midyear budget Thursday night, the speaker circulated to reporters a letter to the governor containing a veiled threat to try to override the veto.

"If that is your intention, I ask that you veto (the bill) now so that we may exercise rights afforded to us in the Georgia Constitution,'' the letter said.

But Perdue said he hoped legislative leaders would use today's last session day to work with his staff to combine the midyear budget and the $20.2 billion 2008 spending plan into a single bill.

House-Senate negotiations on the '08 budget began earlier this week.

In a statement released after the veto, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle backed Perdue.

"Tonight, the governor exercised his place in the process, and I respect his role,'' said Cagle, the Senate's presiding officer. "Now is the time for all of us to work together to reach a resolution.''

During the news conference, Perdue said the legislature, in putting a tax cut into the midyear budget, failed to adequately fund the state's adult literacy program, newborn screening, Georgia's indigent defense program and state efforts to combat Internet predators and meth abusers.