Perdue lowers 2010 budget estimate; state employees to pay more for health care

The flailing economy continues to impact state spending, with Gov. Sonny Perdue lowering his revenue estimate for the state's 2010 budget on Tuesday.

Perdue and his economic team now think the state will take in $1.6 billion less in state revenues than previously expected. Most of that — $1.1 billion — will be covered by federal stimulus dollars flowing from Washington.

Perdue, who initially said the state might reject some unemployment stimulus money, said Tuesday that the state would take it. He said state officials studied strings attached to the new funding and found it "in our best interest" to accept the money and offer extended unemployment benefits.

There had been concerns that it would cost the state more in the long run to accept the money.

Stimulus infusions will allow the state to avoid most cuts. But there will be several affects to the change.

For example, state employees will pay about 5 percent more for health insurance. Instead of the state covering 75 percent of those costs, the state will pay 70 percent, Perdue said.

State departments will need to find more cuts, an additional 1 percent or so beyond what they've already axed from their budgets.

The new budget also affects trauma care and state health care funding, though these changes aren't necessarily tied to the lower-than-expected state revenues. Perdue has axed his unpopular proposal to add a new 1.6 percent tax to hospital services and insurance plans. That means he will also cut from his budget increased funding for hospital programs, emergency room subsidies and upgrades to the state's trauma network.