Politics & Government

Perdue announces deal that will fund property tax break for homeowners this year

ATLANTA — With federal stimulus money providing some budgetary breathing room, Gov. Sonny Perdue announced a deal with House and Senate leaders today to fund a property tax break for homeowners this year, avoiding a statewide round of re-billings.

The deal depends on hundreds of millions in new money from the federal government to shore up the state's Medicaid program, as well as new cuts for state agencies that have already lopped as much as 10 percent from their fiscal 2009 budgets. But it will keep local governments from sending out new tax bills and asking homeowners for an extra $200 to $300 apiece — on average — to cover a tax break included on the 2008 bills.

The deal will also all but assure that the state won't fund the property tax break again this year, or in years soon to come.

Perdue's signing of House Bill 143, the enacting legislation, sets up new state revenue thresholds before the state will pay out on future Homeowner Tax Relief Grants, a pool of money local governments essentially use to fund larger homestead exemptions on residents' primary homes.

That's likely to mean a property tax increase when 2009 bills go out this fall, though local governments could conceivably cut their own spending instead.

Perdue also announced Tuesday that he's lowering the state's revenue estimate for fiscal 2009 by another $450 million.

Combined with previous cuts, that means the state now expects to bring in some $2.65 billion less this fiscal year than was budgeted for during the last General Assembly session, due to the faltering economy.

To balance the budget, there have been heavy spending cuts, and hundreds of millions have been taken from state reserve accounts.