The last time Gov. Sonny Perdue visited Savannah Rapids Pavilion, his entourage was greeted by sign-waving protesters.
He'll probably get a little warmer welcome this week - though it's a mystery why.
Last year, just after local budgets had been approved for the upcoming school year, Perdue decided to make some 11-hour cuts that axed the funding for the state's elementary foreign language program - including the one at Stevens Creek Elementary School.
So when Perdue decided to pay a visit to Columbia County to speak at the Chamber of Commerce Post Legislative Breakfast a few days later, the school's angry parents and students lined up along Evans-to-Locks Road in protest.
Don't expect a similar unwelcome for Perdue when he comes to the Pavilion Wednesday for a fundraising barbecue for U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, even though Perdue's newest late-in-the-game budget-cuts could hit much harder.
When Perdue axed those foreign-language funds, it cut just $1.6 million from the state budget, about $142,000 of it from Columbia County. This time around, Perdue says he wants to "freeze" the $428 million Homestead Tax Relief Grant - at a total cost of just more than $4.3 million to Columbia County.
Sending out protesters for a $142,000 cut to the county, but smiling and shaking hands over a possible $4.3 million hit? What's that about straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel?
Meanwhile, the Atlanta paper the other day had a highly enlightening piece about what exactly is - and isn't - on the chopping-block as the state hits a downturn in revenue.
Those homestead relief grants, a program from former Gov. Roy Barnes that Perdue tried and failed to kill as soon as he took office, were first to face the axe. Perdue last week called the grants "ineffective" and said he still wants to eliminate them, but state Rep. Ben Harbin says he thinks the grants will survive, at least until next year.
In any event, what else is spared from the budget-cutting axe? For one thing, big-time tax exemptions written in response to well-funded lobbyists are in no danger of disappearing.
Included in those exemptions, writes James Salzer, are two big new giveaways for insurance companies, another one for pig farmers and another for movie-production companies. Even larger ones are the $50 million exemption for private-school donations, and a $34 million break for big timberland owners.
Tax cuts are great, but don't be fooled; these aren't tax cuts for you and me. If these exemptions stay in place, you could lose the property tax relief on your home to make up for giveaways to those who are better-connected than you are.
Salzer also points out that while the state Senate is running full steam ahead on doling out "local assistance grants" - i.e., pork - Harbin has asked all House members to reconsider their grants and to make cuts.
"I'm personally going to be reducing some grants and doing away with some," says Harbin, the chairman of the House appropriations committee.
"We're asking all the House members to do the same," he told Salzer. "It's not a lot of money, but the main thing we're trying to do is let everyone know how important this is. It's the right message to send."
ith Perdue in budget-cutting mode, he's a wise choice to speak at a Broun event.
Word came out last week that Broun was forced to make severe "adjustments" to his office budget. He has spent 80 percent of his annual operating budget, mostly because of nearly $600,000 he spent on re-election advertisements masquerading as communications with constituents.
Forget those party labels: The Democrat in the district next door, John Barrow, spent just $125,000 on similar mailings.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.)
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