Originally created 10/24/06

Taylor urges Perdue not to cut schools



ATLANTA - With the race for governor entering its final two weeks, Democratic Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor on Monday urged his Republican opponent, Gov. Sonny Perdue, to stop cuts to the state's schools.

State Republicans, meanwhile, continued to hammer away at Mr. Taylor on ethics charges, claiming he took illegal campaign contributions.

Mr. Taylor used a news conference at the state Capitol to call on Mr. Perdue to sign a pledge vowing to veto any additional cuts to education funding.

He cited a story by The Associated Press that found that some districts in the state have been grappling with a state funding formula shortfall by cutting programs, raising local taxes or dipping into their reserves.

"I challenge Gov. Perdue today to put his word, his reputation on the line and join me in stopping any more cuts," Mr. Taylor said at a news conference at the state Capitol. "If I am elected my budget will stop annual cuts to our school children."

With a flourish for the television cameras, Mr. Taylor then signed a poster-size copy of his pledge.

Although the state reported a record surplus this summer, the state Department of Education has recommended a schools budget for the next fiscal year that continues to shortchange the state formula funding by $169 million. If re-elected, Mr. Perdue will ultimately make that budget recommendation.

The Perdue camp declined to comment on whether it would restore the state funding. Perdue spokesman Derrick Dickey instead pointed to improvements in graduation rates and SAT rankings as evidence that the state's education picture was brightening.

Mr. Taylor and Mr. Perdue have been sparring over education funding in the race for governor. Mr. Perdue claims that he has invested $1 billion in education - or $400 more per student.

Mr. Taylor argues that the Perdue administration is responsible for $1.25 billion in cuts to schools.

Both men are technically right. While overall schools funding has risen under Mr. Perdue, it would have climbed even higher if his administration had given districts what they are supposed to receive under the state funding formula.

The state Republican Party on Monday continued to attack Mr. Taylor for accepting illegal campaign contributions, filing a third ethics complaint against him Monday.

In the latest complaint, the GOP says Mr. Taylor accepted excessive contributions for a primary runoff and failed to return money after learning that there would be no runoff.

The GOP complaint says Mr. Taylor's campaign accepted $68,857 for a primary runoff. Only $25,000 of that has been returned. It says Mr. Taylor took in $29,500 for a primary runoff after the July 18 primary when it was clear a runoff wouldn't be needed.

Taylor spokesman Rick Dent said Monday that the money at issue was raised for a possible general election runoff but a software glitch had categorized it instead for a primary runoff.