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Perdue proposes $20.2 billion budget

ATLANTA — Gov. Sonny Perdue, fresh off his resounding re-election win, proposed a $20.2 billion budget plan on Wednesday that would boost salaries for teachers, preserve more land and cut taxes for retirees.
    In his annual State of the State address, Perdue said Georgia ‘‘is poised for greatness.’’
    He painted the state’s economy as strong.
    ‘‘Georgia is a changing, dynamic action video that is moving at the speed of a NASCAR race,’’ Perdue said.
    Perdue’s budget blueprint boosts spending 8 percent from the current year’s $18.6 billion. His amended budget proposal for the current fiscal year would increase spending by $711 million to $19.3 billion.
    ‘‘We’ve spent the last four years working on our fundamentals, our blocking, our tackling and our special teams,’’ Perdue said. ‘‘And now we’re ready to win championships.’’
    Perdue continued to focus on education, the cornerstone of his re-election win. He is recommending a 3 percent pay raise for teachers and another round of $100 gift cards for educators.
    The president of the Georgia Association of Educators, said the speech sounded like good news for Georgia’s teachers.
    ‘‘Education came out quite well,’’ Jeff Hubbard said.
    Perdue repeated his campaign pledge to add graduation coaches to the state’s middle schools. He also said he wants to fund a statewide online tutoring program, but didn’t provide a price tag.
    The governor called on the federal government to come up with funds for the Peach Care health insurance program for children. The state is set to face a $131 million shortfall in federal funds and state health officials have warned that the popular program might end in March unless Congress steps up.
    ‘‘Hear me, Georgia stands ready willing and able to play our part but we need our federal partners to meet their share of the responsibility,’’ Perdue said.
    Perdue said he will set aside $100 million to begin to fund the future costs of retiree health care benefits.
    On the environmental front, Perdue said he will request another $50 million toward the purchase of undeveloped land for protection.
    Mark Woodall, a lobbyist for the Georgia Sierra Club, said the group is encouraged by Perdue’s proposal to spend $50 million on preserving land.
    ‘‘We’re losing Georgia’s special places on about a daily basis,’’ Woodall said. ‘‘Now is the time to do something about it.’’
    Perdue also said he wants to set aside $16 million to purchase extra doses of antivirals to protect against pandemic flu.
    Fishermen will have something to celebrate. Perdue is proposing $19 million for a ‘‘Go Fish’’ initiative to add ramps and other improvements in 15 sites along on the state’s major waterways to lure large bass tournaments to the state.
    ‘‘We will turn Georgia into a fishermen’s paradise,’’ Perdue said.
    The Perdue administration was set to unveil its budget proposal after the speech. That spending plan will contain the nuts and bolts of the governor’s initiatives.
    Perdue is not expected to face much opposition pushing his budget plan through. Both chambers of the state Legislature are controlled by Republicans who have overwhelmingly embraced his agenda. He was interrupted over and over again by applause from Republican lawmakers.
    The state’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 31.
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    On The Net:
    Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget: http://opb.georgia.gov/
    Georgia Department of Revenue: http://www.etax.dor.ga.gov/

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