The Associated Press May 18, 2011, 10:48AM ET

Ga. Governor signs $18.3B budget, vetoes 9 bills

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed an $18.3 billion budget on Tuesday that increases health insurance premiums for state employees, slashes funding for Georgia's college system and cobbles together money to go after tax cheats.

Deal signed the budget before departing Saturday on a trade mission to Europe. His office announced on Tuesday that the governor used his line item veto power to strike funding for 11 bond projects in the university system worth more than $40 million.

The spending plan covers the fiscal year that begins July 1. Georgia is absorbing the loss of $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars in the budget.

Deal vetoed items because he said design costs for university and technical college construction projects were being funded by 20-year bonds.

"The design is short-term limited-life and does not result in a physical asset. The state's priority should be to fund construction for existing projects for which we have already paid for the design," Deal said.

Deal also vetoed nine bills from the legislative session that ended last month. One would have required that campaign literature and other communication state clearly who was paying for it and whether it was authorized by the candidate.

In his veto message on Tuesday, Deal cited the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance which held that political donations are a protected form of speech.

"The issue of campaign finance reform has been a consistent theme in Washington, D.C., and federal court decisions have shown that any type of limitation on the First Amendment right to engage in political speech will receive tough scrutiny," he said.

"Such tough scrutiny would be especially likely where a violation of limitations on political speech would constitute a crime -- as this legislation provides," Deal said.

Among the other bills Deal vetoed:

-- A measure related to coin-operated amusement machines. Deal said while the legislation is designed to clarify a statute that often leads to murky interpretations and unintended results and he doesn't believe it provides sufficient clarity or enforcement powers to shut down Internet cafes.

-- Legislation designed to create accounts that could accept up to $60,000 to help those with developmental disabilities, Deal said the bill was well intentioned but not narrowly tailored enough to apply only to those with special needs but would instead apply broadly to anyone who meets income limits.

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Georgia General Assembly: http://www.legis.ga.gov


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