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Georgia Senate budget restores money for arts
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ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia's arts council was granted a reprieve on Tuesday from the state Senate.

The state House had targeted the arts panel for elimination, a move which arts advocates said would imperil hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants.

On Tuesday, Senate budget writers restored $890,000 in state money to keep the Georgia Council for the Arts afloat for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The money was included in the $17.8 billion budget proposal that passed the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The council is still taking a hit. Gone are about $1.7 million in state grants to local arts and cultural organizations. Georgia would have been the only state in the nation without a federally recognized arts council if the panel had been eliminated, making the state ineligible for more than $800,000 in federal National Endowment for the Arts grants.

Artists rallied at the state Capitol on Monday urging legislators to restore arts money.

State Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack Hill said legislators heard an earful on the arts issue.

"I think it made the difference," the Republican from Reidsville said.

The full state Senate is expected to take up the budget on Wednesday. They must then reconcile their spending blueprint with the one that cleared the House.

Also in the budget approved by Senate budget writers on Tuesday was money for the sports and music halls of fame in Macon. That money had been stripped in the House budget. The House had wiped out state funding for the halls of fame, arguing they've never grown to be self supporting. The Senate put back almost $900,000 for the two.

But the Senate sided with the House and omitted bonds worth $793,520 to finish construction a huge horse barn at the Georgia State Fairgrounds in Perry. Gov. Sonny Perdue had sought the funding for the facility near his middle Georgia home.

Legislators have been struggling with a $785 million shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The state's budget woes have been a major stumbling block this legislative session, keeping lawmakers at the state Capitol weeks later than usual.