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Isakson, stimulus cash, and property tax relief

Feb 17, 2009
Isakson, stimulus cash, and property tax relief

By Jim Galloway

Tuesday was a day to celebrate peanut butter and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson at the state Capitol.

Legislators and lobbyists handed out free doses of disease-free peanut butter. Isakson, officially there to kick off his re-election campaign, handed out free advice on what to do with the billions in stimulus money.

Even though Gov. Sonny Perdue and state lawmakers had already decided what to do with $428 million of the cash — that it was just the thing to get them out of a nasty political clash.

Isakson first addressed the state Senate:

“Regardless of people’s position on [the stimulus], the reality is the money will be flowing, over time, to the states. And there will be significant money coming to Georgia. My one admonition to all of you is, this is a one-time purpose. Don’t get used to it, and don’t get dependent on it.

“I know you will spend it wisely.”

Isakson elaborated before the state House:

“This is a one-time occurrence. It may allow us kick the can down the road for another year but reform of how we raised money for highways, reform of Medicaid, reform of all types are going to have to take place for us to continue to be a very strong state.”

At the main event, off the Capitol rotunda, Isakson was joined by U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, House Speaker Glenn Richardson, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, and the governor — who lauded Isakson as “bigger than peanuts in Georgia.”

But Perdue had money on his mind, too. He said this about Isakson and Chambliss:

“The only problem is they didn’t bring the check directly. They say it’s coming.”

The governor is about to hold a press conference with the House speaker and the lieutenant governor. He’ll shorten the budget by a significant amount, to account for declining tax revenues.

But Perdue will also sign H.B. 143, acceding to state lawmakers’ wishes and guaranteeing $428 million in home property taxes for one more year — worth $200 to $300 to you and me.

They’ll use money from President Barack Obama’s stimulus package to fund it.

So what did Isakson think of this use of recovery money?

“The stimulus we passed last May in Congress sent $300 per family back to families making $75,000 or less, so I think it would fall in the definition of being a stimulus. A lot more so than paying for a study of [socially transmitted diseases] or global warming or some of the other stuff that’s in there.” Isakson said.

On the other hand, Isakson also said that the tax refunds last spring didn’t work. “Consumers paid debt down and sat on the money. So things got worse,” he said.

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