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Tuesday, January 19, 2010 - 4:46am

State Lawmakers Continue Budget Hearings

Budget hearings continue for a second-straight day at the state Capitol. Members of the Joint Appropriations Committee will hear from the departments of education and transportation, among others.

On Tuesday, Governor Perdue started off the hearings with a grim assessment of the state budget.

He told state lawmakers that Georgia has to plug a $1.3 billion dollar budget shortfall by June 30.

Perdue justified giving state employees and teachers another three days of furloughs, saying they will save the state $125 million and help as many as 2000 teachers keep their jobs.

"I think almost to a person our teachers and our educators would rather take that those 3 instructional days off rather than see their colleagues to that degree go home," Perdue told lawmakers. He noted that education will only take three percent cut in the budget this year, while other state departments are taking a nine percent hit.

Following Perdue's remarks, Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham testified. The Department of Revenue is among the agencies taking a nine percent cut this year. Graham told lawmakers that he is doing all he can to collect state income and sales taxes, but that budget cuts and furloughs have made it tougher on his department.

Some lawmakers wanted to know what could be done to speed up refunds, especially to small businesses dependent on this cash flow.

Graham said unless more people file their taxes electronically there could again be payment delays this tax season.

"It's possible if we don't get more electronic filing, but i think we go through this year and the risk we take on what we spend of processing to years end, I'm expecting a better result this year," Graham told lawmakers.

Last year 55 percent of Georgia filed their taxes electronically. The state had to pay out $2 million in interest on delayed tax refunds.

To watch the budget hearings online, go here.


Edgar Treiguts

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