Governor Perdue vetos TBI funding & Judges' raises

In an article by AP reporter Shannon McCaffrey, it was noted that Gov. Sonny Perdue approved the $21.1 billion budget. Perdue also signed dozens of bills on what is his final day to consider legislation passed this session, including one that critics say could boost auto insurance rates in the state.

Perdue stripped $14.2 million in spending from the plan for the fiscal year set to start July 1, cutting funds for things like the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund and the tourism program of the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning.

The insurance bill Perdue signed allows insurance companies to change their rates without review by the state insurance commissioner. Perdue said in a signing statement that the market should be allowed to regulate automobile insurance rates.

He said his office compared states that are regulated with those that are found "no discernible difference" in rates.

But Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine predicted rates in Georgia would rise.

"If the insurance company lobbyists wanted this so bad there's a reason," Oxendine said.

Among Perdue's vetoes was a measure that would have boosted judges and district attorneys pay by 5 percent. The governor said he was concerned that lawmakers were raising judicial salaries without addressing the "well above-market retirement benefits."

Judges haven't had a raise - aside from cost-of-living increases - in nine years.

"We're very disappointed," said Gerald Edenfield, president of the State Bar of Georgia, which had originally pressed for a 20 percent increase. "I thought at 5 percent, it wouldn't be vetoed."

Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears said she was "dismayed" by the decision.

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 051508