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.