Barnes Rolls out Security's Cost $6.3 Million Cost Gets Tepid Support

Article excerpt

Byline: Brian Basinger, Times-Union staff writer

ATLANTA -- Gov. Roy Barnes was undaunted yesterday while discussing his $6.3 million homeland security plan for Georgia, despite the fact that not a single member of the General Assembly applauded the package earlier this week.

"I find strong support in the General Assembly for this," he said after cautioning reporters not too read too much into the fact there was no ovation for the plan during his budget speech Wednesday.

When Barnes unveiled the security budget items, state lawmakers listening to his speech sat in rigid silence.

The General Assembly had just applauded multiple other spending initiatives outlined in the governor's 2003 budget proposal, including teacher pay raises and an enhanced school reading program.

But after Barnes brought up the issue of post-Sept. 11 security spending, not a single clap of support echoed through the Capitol.

Members of Barnes' own political party were doubtful yesterday they could support the package's price tag.

"I do support some of the legislation," said Sen. Regina Thomas, D-Savannah, a member of the Senate Appropriations and Defense committees.

But Thomas said she was concerned about the amount Barnes was earmarking for homeland security, explaining it might be too much in light of impending budget cuts.

"There's going to be a watchdog group over the (homeland security) money," said Thomas, who plans to review the budget in detail.

The security package, which must be approved by the General Assembly as part of the state's 2002 and 2003 budgets, is a far-reaching endeavor, beefing up resources and staff throughout various state departments and agencies.

It includes $2.3 million for the development of a statewide hospital trauma center and more than $1.7 million in new jobs and resources.

The plan comes in a year when an ongoing recession has caused Barnes to call for budget cuts in nearly all sectors of government, from education to labor. …