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Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 11:52am

State Readies To Spend More

Under the budget Gov. Nathan Deal signed Tuesday, the state will spend about 5 percent more than it’s spending this year. State officials say costs are rising for the fiscal year that starts on July 1 – but so is revenue.

The $19.8 billion spending plan includes boosts for Medicaid and education -- $247 million and $146 million respectively.

The state will also spend $13 million more on pre-kindergarten as the program returns to its full 180-day calendar. Other elements include:

*$5 million in additional funds for cancer-related research and $45 million in bonds for a new cancer research building at Georgia Regents University.

*$92 million in bonds for renovations, equipment and new building construction for the state’s technical college system.

*$50 million in bonds for the deepening of the Savannah Port.

*$47 million for grants to charter systems that are within their initial contract.

But Governor Deal said, even with these increases, the budget is pragmatic and conservative.

“We believe it will keep us on a course of keeping our triple-A bond rating. And of course budgetary matters are primary factors in determining those ratings,” he told reporters.

Georgia’s Governor can veto budget line items. But this year, Deal didn’t.

And that surprised Terry England, an Auburn Republican who chairs the House’s budget committee.

“This is a first for me," he said after the bill-signing. "Normally there’s one or two little things. But there just weren’t this time.”

Republicans control all state offices. And Deal explained the change by saying he prefers to work out disagreements privately.

Tuesday was the last day for signing bills this year. And Deal saved signing the thorniest bills from the legislative session for last. Late Monday, he signed a bill that will keep Fulton County from raising property taxes for two years.

At the budget bill-signing, he said he carefully weighed the pros and cons of signing it and a series of similar bills.

Some county commissioners say the move encroaches on local control. They worry Deal could do something similar in their counties.

When asked about that possibility, Deal said, “I guess the best response is, ‘Don’t put yourself in a posture where your local delegation feels it needs to take action at the state level to restrain your spending.’”

He added that no other county finds itself in such grave fiscal trouble.