State reserves hit record

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ATLANTA - Georgia's reserves are flush with cash.

State tax collections rose 7.5 percent - or $1.2 billion - for the fiscal year that ended June 30, money managers reported Friday. And the state's rainy day fund is stocked with a record-high $1.2 billion, about $400 million of that new money.

The rosy financial picture is certain to ignite fresh tensions within Georgia's ruling Republican Party, which squabbled earlier this year over whether there was enough money for a tax cut.

House Republicans, led by Speaker Glenn Richardson, pushed through a $142 million one-time property tax refund. But Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed it in May, arguing that the state didn't have the cash. At the time, the Perdue administration said revenues were showing signs of slipping.

"We are certainly pleased the economy seems to have rebounded," Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said Friday.

Mr. Richardson argued that the healthy numbers released Friday show the time is ripe for tax reform.

"I think we need to sit down and decide the best way to return money to the taxpayers of Georgia," he said.

The Georgia arm of the anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity agreed.

"The state has been wrong and wrong again," the group's executive director Jared Thomas said. "This is money that has been overcharged to Georgians."

Mr. Thomas is leading a petition drive urging state officials to return millions in the state reserves to Georgians in the form of tax relief.

But Alan Essig, the executive director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, said the state needs the money in case there's another downturn in the economy similar to what Mr. Perdue experienced when he first took office in 2002.

The overall jump in revenues for the year was fueled largely by a 9.4 percent increase in individual income tax collections and a 17.9 percent increase in corporate income taxes.

Motor fuel tax collections also skyrocketed by 20 percent over the prior fiscal year. That money is funneled directly into roads and transportation.

The state tax on gasoline rises automatically when prices jump to certain levels. It's already gone up twice in recent months which has led to calls for a special session to provide Georgians relief at the pump, at least temporarily.

The overall surplus for fiscal year 2006 is about $600 million. Of that, $188 million will go into the midyear education adjustment to fund the growth in student enrollment growth in Georgia.

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justthinkbushisstupid 07/14/07 - 08:27 am
sonny seems to keep making

sonny seems to keep making bad decisions like bush, can't wait for both of them to leave office! How either was reelected for a second term puzzles me. But they are doing with that party does-"Take from the poor and give to the rich"

USAEJXR1 07/14/07 - 09:44 am
Now that their is a surplus

Now that their is a surplus of funds. It is time to work on overhauling the income tax as we know it. Why can't they see with sales tax. We all pay, even the ones that are illegal.

patriciathomas 07/14/07 - 09:48 am
Bush tax cuts have stimulated

Bush tax cuts have stimulated the economy and kept unemployment below 5% for over four years. That why Georgia coffers, and the rest of the country, is so flush. In retrospect, Purdues decision to veto the one time property tax refund seems a bad one. hondawomans comments are based on leftwing headlines instead of intelligence.

intheknow 07/14/07 - 09:56 am
I agree with PT, except for

I agree with PT, except for the " Leftwing headlines" part. What leftwing paper? The Augusta Chronicle?

lawyerdude 07/14/07 - 09:58 am
Plenty of cash on hand and

Plenty of cash on hand and Augusta gets very little of it - as demonstrated by Perdue's denial of funding for the Golf Hall of Fame. The governor is not a friend of Augusta, yet Augustans keep voting for him and other Republicans. Go figure.

Many Arrows
Many Arrows 07/14/07 - 09:42 pm
Funny, all the huge windfall

Funny, all the huge windfall came from INCOME TAXES, especially corporate INCOME TAXES. Sales taxes were DOWN, so don't look for the politicians to depend on a falling tax stream to replace a growing one.

The tax "reform" being considered by the Georgia House would eliminate corporate income tax in favor of a sales tax on medical services and food for the PEOPLE.

Ain't gonna happen.

addisons65 07/14/07 - 10:13 pm
Why not use the "extra" money

Why not use the "extra" money to fund education development all over the state? Why should we have any schools failing the NCLB standards when there is over a billion dollars in surplus?

zcock 07/17/07 - 02:54 pm
...and yet they can't fund

...and yet they can't fund the Golf Hall of Fame!

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