News Midday Update: Economy threatens state budget; judge seals file in case of slain Auburn student; drivers urged to leave more space between vehicles

Georgia’s sputtering economy and lagging tax collections are forcing legislative leaders to reconsider $700 million in new spending.

It could mean that hundreds of new jobs will be cut, about $150 million in tax cuts could be delayed and pay raises for 200,000 teachers and other state employees could be at risk.

Top legislative leaders have promised to vet the budget, including a proposal to hold a special session to cut spending.

State tax collections were down 9.4 percent in June and are off 1.1 percent for the fiscal year. That forced the state to use $600 million in reserves to make ends meet.

Gov. Sonny Perdue ordered most state agencies to plan for a 3.5 percent cut, saving $300 million. But legislators fear that won’t be enough. One budget think tank says the state could face a shortfall of more than $2 billion.

– Associated Press

Judge seals file in case of slain Auburn student

A judge has sealed the file in the case of Courtney Lockhart, who is charged with the murder of an Auburn University student.

Defense attorneys filed a motion last month to have the file sealed in an effort to control pretrial publicity.

The order to seal the case, written by Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob A. Walker, says the county district attorney’s office supported the motion.

The order means the public cannot access Lockhart’s file through the circuit clerk’s office.

A gag order had already been issued to keep anyone involved in the case from publicly discussing it.

Lockhart is 23 and is from Smiths Station. He is charged in the March 4 murder of Auburn freshman Lauren Burk, of Marietta, Ga. Lockhart is also charged with a February robbery in Russell County.

No trial date has been set.

– Associated Press

Drivers urged to leave more space between vehicles

A campaign launched this week in Gwinnett County urges drivers to ‘‘leave more space’’ between vehicles to avoid collisions between passenger vehicles and commercial trucks.

The campaign is part of the Georgia Department of Public Safety’s ‘‘Targeting Aggressive Cars and Trucks’’ program.

About 35 officers will patrol the roughly 30-mile corridor of I-85 between Sugarloaf Parkway into Jackson County and up to I-985 to Georgia 20. Four signs have been posted along the stretch to illustrate the safe distance and war drivers to avoid a ticket.

Public safety department spokesman Gordy Wright said 15 percent of highway deaths each year result from crashes between passenger and commercial vehicles. He said nearly 90 percent of those killed are in the passenger cars.

– Associated Press


– If there ever was a time when shoppers needed a little break at the cash register, it's now. The sales-tax-free weekend begins Thursday. We'll give you the details.

– A groundbreaking is being held today at Robins Air Force Base for a hangar that will house a new helicopter squadron that's moving from Dobbins. We'll tell you more about it.


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