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Perdue rescinding budget veto; will line-item veto tax cut
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ATLANTA — Georgia property owners won’t be getting that tax refund after all.
    Gov. Sonny Perdue on Tuesday rescinded his veto of the state’s midyear budget but used his line item power to reject a $142 million property tax refund championed by House Republicans.
    The governor’s highly unusual ‘‘un-veto’’ means that there will not be a promised special session, expected to cost $45,000 a day. It is likely to also mean the furlough of prosecutors and adult literacy teachers.
    At a news conference on Tuesday, Perdue said that sagging tax collections point to a slowing economy, making the one-time tax cut imprudent. He lambasted the Republican-led House for refusing to budge and said he became convinced in recent days that returning lawmakers to Atlanta would be unproductive.
    ‘‘I began to see the futility of a special session,’’ Perdue said. ‘‘There is obviously no spirit of compromise with the House leadership.’’
    Perdue said the House only wanted to talk about moving to override the governor’s veto of the $700 million spending plan.
    ‘‘Leaders in my opinion don’t act in such a way,’’ Perdue said.
    Perdue’s chief antagonist, House Speaker Glenn Richardson, continued to sound off on Tuesday.
    ‘‘Sometimes friends disagree, but the House will not compromise when it comes to defending the taxpayers of Georgia,’’ Richardson said in a statement.
    Perdue’s veto on the legislative session’s next-to-last day touched off a bitter feud with Richardson and exposed a deep rift in the state’s ruling Republican Party.
    The budget Perdue will now sign contains $81 million to bail out PeachCare, the state’s health insurance program for poor children, and $8.5 million for cash-strapped public defenders. Both programs had been running on empty.
    But Perdue acknowledged that the midyear budget is still flawed and will likely force the furlough of prosecutors and adult literacy teachers before the June 30 end of the fiscal year. He said it also failed to provide enough money to stockpile antivirals to protect the state against a possible deadly flu pandemic, cutting the $15.7 he had recommended by more than half.
    ‘‘I don’t want that blood on my hands,’’ Perdue said.
    The governor rolled out new revenue numbers that he said bolster his case for vetoing the tax refund. They show that tax collections in Georgia were down 1.9 percent for April from the same month the year before. While revenues are still up for the year as a whole the governor called the downward trend troubling and suggested he might need to trim some spending in the fiscal year 2008 budget, which is awaiting his signature.
    ‘‘I’m disappointed,’’ Perdue said. ‘‘We failed our constituents.’’
    Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said in a statement that Perdue ‘‘exercised strong character and courageous leadership’’ with the move.
    ‘‘By decisively concluding a hopelessly stalemated debate, Gov. Perdue has ensured that the urgent needs of students, kids on PeachCare, and communities devastated by natural disaster will not take second place to political posturing,’’ Cagle said.
    Perdue said he would strike the tax cut, then cross out his veto of the overall budget, sign it and transmit the spending package to the Legislature. He said he was unaware if such an unusual move had been performed before by a Georgia governor.
    The move will mean that the $142 million that would have been used for the tax refund will lapse into the state’s reserve fund.
    Public defenders are among the groups that have been watching the state budget stalemate anxiously. Sarah Haskin, of the state’s Public Defender Standards Council, said Tuesday that the $8.5 million in the mid-year budget Perdue will now sign means they will not have to furlough staff. But it is still $1 million less than they had asked for. The shortage could mean even deeper cuts in the coming fiscal year. Haskin said a shortfall in that budget means that 41 jobs will be cut.
    A spokesman for the Department of Technical and Adult Education said there was hope that creative financing could allow them to have avoid sending the state’s 246 adult literacy teachers home. Now, a month-long furlough seems almost certain.
    ‘‘The money isn’t there,’’ Mike Light said.
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