ATLANTA - Fifty statues to honor prominent blacks from Augusta and aid for materials to recruit businesses to the downtown area were among the local projects lawmakers asked a special budget panel to fund in legislative hearings Friday.
The meetings on "local assistance grants," small allotments meant to aid local governments with everything from monuments to equipment for fire departments, marked an attempt to make the process more open.
In the past, leaders of the General Assembly were perceived to have an edge in getting extra spending for their districts.
Last year, the House's insistence on funding about $3.5 million in those projects almost derailed the budget when Senate budget writers balked.
To avoid a similar showdown, the two chambers decided to create the special committee, which includes three senators and three members of the House. Friday was the committee's first meeting.
Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta, presented some of the items he or other members of the local delegation decided to ask the panel to fund, including the 50 statues the African-American Historical Commission wants to place along Laney-Walker Boulevard.
For the most part, lawmakers had a positive reaction to the idea of the hearings.
"I think it kind of evens out the playing field," said Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler. "There are a lot of worthwhile projects throughout the state."
The final decision on what projects are funded and by how much won't be known until the House version of the budget is prepared in coming days.
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