Senator pushes worker furloughs

Morris News Service
Tommie Williams says more state workers must go without pay in order to fund a tax break.

ATLANTA --- Georgia will need to furlough more state employees to balance its budget and deliver homeowners a promised property tax break, the state's top Republican senator said Monday.

 

State legislators have pledged to find $428 million to fund the property tax grants that Gov. Sonny Perdue eliminated from his budget proposal. The grants have already been promised to homeowners this year.

"We can't get to $428 million without furloughs," State Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams said Monday.

GOP leaders have been hinting for weeks that the state's dismal economic picture might make additional furloughs necessary. Mr. Williams' comments sent the strongest signal yet that the more than 123,000 state employees in Georgia should brace for more days off without pay.

Employees in a number of state agencies are already being required to take a furlough day a month. But others have balked at the idea. The state Department of Transportation and the university system have not used furloughs to cut their spending. The state Legislature could force their hands as it tinkers with the $19.2 billion amended state budget for the current fiscal year.

Mr. Williams, a Lyons Republican, said that some essential employees -- such as prison guards and state law enforcement -- cannot face furloughs.

Georgia officials are looking to make up a $2.2 billion budget shortfall. Tax revenues have plummeted as the recession has tightened its grip.

The $428 million will fund the Homeowner Tax Relief Grant that's included in property tax bills that have already been sent out. The average tax relief is $200 to $300 per household.

If the state doesn't deliver the money, homeowners would be slapped with a supplemental bill to recoup the grant money.