Senate panel advances Perdue plan to siphon GEFA funds

A Senate committee this week gave Gov. Sonny Perdue a major victory in his plan to use nearly $300 million in state water and sewer bond money to plug a gaping hole in the 2011 state budget.

The Senate Special Judiciary Committee on Monday approved an amended version of HB 244 to allow the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority to transfer money to the state general fund. Perdue wants use $288 million in GEFA money to balance the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Perdue said that GEFA has $1 billion in a fund designed to finance bonds for local governments who cannot get financing through the general bond market. The state instead finances their projects on a loan basis using the GEFA fund.

But to do that, state law has to be changed to allow the GEFA money to flow back to the state.

The bill that was amended Monday in the Senate committee simply changes GEFA’s name to the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. The amendment allowing the transfer of money was approved in committee.

It’s not immediately clear when the bill as amended could come up for a vote in the Senate. If it’s approved there, it would have to also be approved by the House.

But House Appropriations Committee chairman Ben Harbin (R-Evans) said he isn’t sure it’s a good idea. He said he’s heard from city and county governments around the state who are concerned about losing a source of funding for their water and sewer projects. Bond experts, too, have told him they’re not sure the state can reap the full $288 million from the fund, Harbin said.

He’s now working on the fiscal 2011 budget and he’s hoping to avoid needing the GEFA money. He won’t close the door yet, but he said he’d rather do without it.

8 comments Add your comment

Cutty

February 17th, 2010
1:19 pm

Robbing Peter to pay Paul. For all the conservative talk about how Obama is failing, will someone please shine a light on this goober Perdue.

Scott

February 17th, 2010
1:33 pm

1 billion in high speed rail funds…LOST
300 million street car funds…LOST
How much more must we lose before these idiots get their act together! The Feds have made it crystal clear that Georgia gets 0 unless it shows a willingness and commitment to these projects. This kind of accounting trick does nothing. Hell, we have been sitting on 80 million for ATL- Macon rail that we are going to have to GIVE BACK because the Moron Governor and the morons under the dome cant get 15 million in matching money (in 8 years no less). Is anyone seeing that all these guys have to go???? If not, welcome to the new Birmingham cause thats what we will be

Garry Owen

February 17th, 2010
2:11 pm

So many communities need help to fix and or expand water and sewer service and the state is using the money to plug a hole in the state budget. Disgarceful!

Intown Water

February 17th, 2010
2:54 pm

This is a terrible public policy decision. GEFA money is not only for those who cannot get to the bond markets. It reduces the cost of water/sewer capital projects for all local jurisdictions that participate. This is foolish money management.

back roads

February 17th, 2010
4:08 pm

That money Sonny needs could be raised by taxing the private hunting preserves.

Saul Good

February 17th, 2010
5:42 pm

Perfect example here of WHY GA is always at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to education…. the “product” of GA’s schools are running (or should I say “ruining”) the state. Sonny cares NOT about Water or natural resources…. hey….next drought that comes along…he can simply “pray” on the steps of the capitol….though he’ll be out of office enjoying the good life and all the “riches” he made while being “govna” of the “Idiot State”….. GA: Always LAST in edgumacation and darn dam prouds of it!

Newter Gingrich

February 17th, 2010
6:55 pm

The water and sewer funds are seeded with grant funds from EPA. That money is supposed to be used to capitalize low-interest loans to local governments. When the loans are paid back, the money is supposed to be used to make more loans.

Failure to use the $$$ properly means a loss of future grant funds.

I’m sure Perdue has thought this through. Not.

Slugworth

February 17th, 2010
6:55 pm

Make no mistake about it. This bill amounts to no more than another bailout for wall street investment bankers and bond attorneys — who locals (taxpayers and ratepayers) will have to turn to for issuing bonds when these low-interest water and sewer loans are no longer available. Sonny must be getting quite a kickback in return. Shame on him for selling out Georgia’s future for a one-time fix for the state’s budget. How does this speak for his “Culture of Conservation.” Quite a legacy indeed Governor. Thank God this failed experiment/administration is nearing its end.