Senate Passes Its Version of 2006 Budget, despite Gripes; House-Senate Committee Now Meets to Hammer out Final Details before Vote

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Byline: BRIAN BASINGER, The Times-Union

ATLANTA -- A state budget that includes $64 million in construction bonds for Georgia's ports and waterways and a 2 percent pay raise for all teachers and state employees won easy approval Monday in the Senate.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, said the 2006 budget brought good news after two years of "painful cuts" following the economic downturn of 2001-2003.

However, Democrats complained the Republican-led legislature was relying too heavily on debt-financed bonds and should put more funds into the state's rainy-day reserves.

"What are we doing? Borrowing and spending with no regard for tomorrow," said Sen. Tim Golden, D-Valdosta.

Still, Republicans argued in favor of their bond packages -- including the port projects and various construction proposals for the state's university system.

"We were very pleased, obviously," said Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, referring to the port money. "Those are good investments for Georgians who work."

The record $17.4 billion spending plan -- passed in a 38-13 vote -- is far from its final form.

The Senate draft removed various community-level projects that House budget writers added to their version earlier this month.

Opposing the House requests, the Senate called instead for a $3 million local development fund that the state Department of Community Affairs could use to dole out money for local projects. …


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