Lawmakers to review Perdue's budget proposal

ATLANTA --- Lawmakers spend three days this week studying the budget that Gov. Sonny Perdue released noon Friday.

The budget recess gives those with new offices the chance to get settled in, including a handful of mid-term freshmen such as Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler; Rep. Ann Purcell, R-Rincon; and Rep. Earnest Smith, D-Augusta. With a new House speaker came changes in 11 committee chairmanships.

Sorting through a 416-page budget that details how $18 billion is to be spent takes time. The House and Senate appropriations committees will meet jointly to hear from the heads of the state's largest agencies.

Kicking off the parade of witnesses is Mr. Perdue at 1 p.m., Tuesday. He'll have a half hour to lay out the reasoning for his recommendations, most of which are cuts with a few tax increases on health insurance companies. He told reporters Friday that approving the budget will involve some political pain but that such measures were necessary to prevent the state from worse conditions in 2012 when federal stimulus money is exhausted.

"I think as our legislators see the proposal for (fiscal years 2010 and 2011) and even the prospects of '12, I hope they will understand that we've acted as prudently as we can, as wisely as we can," he said.

Following the governor are the state economist and then the commissioner of revenue to talk about how much money is likely to be available. The legislative budget writers spend the next two days hearing from 19 agency heads talking about how their personnel will cope with the budget.

The week opens and closes with conferences designed to focus on critical issues. Today, Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond and the Georgia Public Policy Foundation host the all-day Jobs Summit to explore strategies the state can use that might spur companies to hire more people. Friday, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education hosts a conference that includes speeches by the chairmen of the House and Senate education committees, the governor's office and others.