ATLANTA — Funding to give homeowners a break on their property taxes is "virtually fiscally impossible" in the current economic climate, Gov. Sonny Perdue told legislators Wednesday, the first day of House and Senate hearings on his budget recommendations.
The homeowners' tax relief grants have been a top priority for legislators looking to tinker with the budget, because cities, counties and school boards already have figured on getting refunds from the state to provide the break to local property taxpayers.
Without the $428 million it would take the state to make good on that promise this year, local governments would either have to raise taxes or cut spending in budgets they’ve already passed. For example, the city of Warner Robins alone will have a $680,000 hole in its budget without the state funding, Mayor Donald Walker said this week.
Perdue said he wanted to include the money in his budget, but, “ladies and gentlemen, I literally could not find it.” Perdue said his office “scraped up” money from a number of state reserve accounts, taking some down near the bottom, just to build a budget that includes $2.2 billion in cuts, but not money for the refund program.
Perdue promised legislators that he’s not hiding money from them and said if they can find funding for the homestead exemption program, "I'll rejoice with you.”
Even as the significance of state's budget crisis has become apparent, legislators have remained hopeful that the homestead exemption grants could be saved.
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