Perdue's budget doesn't include homestead exemption funding

Gov. Sonny Perdue's budget proposals don't include state funding for homestead exemption grants, meaning local governments are going to have to raise taxes, cut millions in spending.

Either that, or state legislators are going to have to find hundreds of millions of dollars to fill the hole Perdue's budget leaves -- a difficult prospect since Perdue has already cut more than $2 billion from the state budget to deal with falling revenues.

The move was not unexpected, and legislators said they will work to restore the funding, which totals more than $428 million this year and another $428 million for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. This year's funding is especially problematic, since local governments have already passed their own budgets and sent out tax bills counting on the money.

State Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, said he expects the grants to be one of the most "hotly debated" items as the General Assembly picks apart Perdue's budget proposals. Like many legislators, Staton would like to fund the grants, but acknowledges it will be difficult to do.House and Senate Democrats hit the issue hard this afternoon as they responded to Perdue's budget, calling the elimination of the homestead grant program "the biggest property tax increase in Georgia history."

The program, which gives property owners a tax credit on their primary residence, was begun under Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes."Absolutey we will fight for this," said state Rep. DuBose Porter, a Dublin Democrat and House minority leader.