Originally created 02/16/99

House OKs $500 million midyear spending plan



ATLANTA -- The Georgia House approved a midyear spending plan worth more than $500 million Monday, giving Gov. Roy Barnes most of what he wants and adding about $75 million worth of pet legislative projects.

But first the House voted down a Republican amendment that would have funded a study to determine whether to move the state Department of Agriculture from Atlanta to south Georgia.

"I don't know a whole lot of farmers on Capitol Hill," said House Minority Leader Bob Irvin, R-Atlanta, who sponsored the amendment.

The midyear spending plan, which puts the state budget at about $13.1 billion for the fiscal year ending June 30, was approved by the House 156-19 with little debate.

The midyear plan includes $72.7 million to pay the debt service on $790 million worth of new loans to pay for college building projects, road construction, harbor deepening and a major expansion of the World Congress Center convention facility in Atlanta.

About $75 million was added by House members to pay for pet projects, including $23.8 million to move a technical school campus from Carrollton to near Speaker Tom Murphy's hometown.

The budget also includes funding for plenty of less-costly local projects, such as $500,000 for renovation of the Carnegie Library in Savannah and $1 million for operating expenses at the Fort Discovery interactive science museum in Augusta.

Some Republicans criticized such spending, although Rep. Robin Williams, R-Augusta, complained that it is considered pork only if it's being spent outside of Atlanta.

"It depends on who is getting it whether it's a good project or pork," said House Majority Leader Larry Walker, D-Perry.

The budget includes an $86.5 million adjustment in the school funding formula to account for a 1.9 percent growth in enrollment and about $70 million in campus construction projects.

One of the governor's key proposals to begin addressing Atlanta sprawl -- $1.9 million in planning for a light-rail mass-transit system -- was cut from the midyear budget by House members.

However, they left in $5 million he wanted to develop a park at the Mable House, the historic home of the founder of Mableton.

The budget now goes to the Senate for its consideration.