Gov. Sonny Perdue says he inherited a $640 million deficit when he took office in 2003. But things have turned around, and he predicts a $500 million surplus this year.

“And we invested 72 percent of new revenue in education this year,” Perdue added, citing pay increases for teachers and increased spending for classroom construction.

Perdue, who is seeking re-election this year, spoke to more than 100 supporters Thursday morning during a campaign stop at The Dalton Depot restaurant. He said the state has also provided more than $2 billion in tax relief to Georgia taxpayers over the last four years.

“I believe the voters will decide we’ve got a great economic and fiscal record on which to run,” he said.

“We had to make some tough decisions, but those decisions have paid off,” Perdue said, referring to budget cuts in his first three years in office.

Perdue pointed to several measures passed during this year’s legislative session that he said will have major impacts on the state.

The General Assembly, for instance, passed a constitutional amendment to restrict government’s powers of eminent domain. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that governments can take private property from one owner and transfer it to another to foster economic development and increase their tax digest.

“We knew that wasn’t right,” Perdue said of that court decision.

Perdue also praised a new law that will keep adult illegal immigrants from receiving many state benefits.

“We shouldn’t have to choose between being a compassionate state and a law-abiding state,” he said.

Perdue singled out for praise the members of the Whitfield County delegation – all, like him, Republicans.

“You’ve got great representatives in Northwest Georgia. They continue to build influence. This is a strong delegation, and I rely on it,” he said.

Rep. Ron Forster, R-Ringgold, for instance, serves as chairman of the Interstate Cooperation Committee, and Rep Roger Williams, R-Dalton, serves as vice chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Perdue described being governor as “an awesome responsibility.”

“I take it very seriously,” he said.

But he added that he has enjoyed his time in office.

Perdue, a veterinarian and businessman, was elected governor in 2002, defeating incumbent Democrat Roy Barnes. He is the first Republican to hold that office since 1872.

Before being elected governor, Perdue served 12 years in the state Senate, including five years as president pro tempore.

He is from Bonaire. He and his wife Mary have four children.

Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor and Secretary of State Cathy Cox will face each other in the July 18 Democratic primary. The winner will face Perdue in the November general election. Both Cox and Taylor have also made appearances in Dalton.

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