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Perdue: Rising economy not a license to hike spending

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    ATHENS, Ga. — Gov. Sonny Perdue warned state lawmakers on Tuesday that Georgia’s improving economy is not a license to boost spending or push through politically popular tax cuts.
    In his first public remarks since his historic re-election in November, Perdue said Georgia’s economy remains strong but at the same time he urged fiscal responsibility as tax collections show signs of slowing down.
    ‘‘As this month’s revenue numbers show, we cannot assume we will continue growing at breakneck speeds,’’ Perdue told legislators gathered at the University of Georgia for a pre-session boot camp. ‘‘We must continue to budget conservatively.’’
    The Republican governor seemed to throw a damper on an ambitious multiyear initiative by party leaders in the House to get rid of the state income tax. That would mean a loss of $9 billion in revenue
    ‘‘It’s not really coming up with whatever tax cut a focus group or poll says is popular,’’ Perdue said.
    He offered lawmakers the following advice: ‘‘The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.’’
    Education, jobs and health care will be priorities in the year ahead, he said.
    Perdue pledged during his re-election bid to eliminate taxes on retirement income for those age 65 and over but made no mention of the tax cut in his speech on Tuesday.
    He did say he would again push for a pair of constitutional amendments which failed to gain the needed two-thirds majority in the past session. One would make clear that faith-based organizations may use public funds. The other would stipulate that lottery funds may only be used for HOPE scholarships and pre-kindergarten.
    He said the so-called HOPE-Chest amendment in particular stands a better chance of passing now that the election is over. Democrats — led by Perdue’s rival Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor — had voted against the amendment, saying it failed to protect the HOPE scholarship from future cuts.
    Critics have said the faith-based measure will open the door to vouchers. Perdue dismissed that concern on Tuesday, saying it would help poor children receive needed services.
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