Speaking to lawmakers, judges, and other observers in the Georgia House this morning, Gov. Nathan Deal outlined his legislative priorities in his 'State of the State' address. Among the key issues highlighted were public safety, health care, education, and economic development.
"I will not lead our state with a Doomsday mindset," Deal said, "reacting erratically and hastily based on fear or ignorance. Instead, we will move forward with confidence, focusing on the proven foundations of a growing Georgia, those that keep us steady during times of uncertainty but also during times of prosperity."
Deal revealed his proposed $19.9 billion budget for the 2014 fiscal year, which indicated further spending cuts while devoting more than $9 billion to the education budget. Georgia's emphasis on education, he said, would include adding 10 more days to the pre-K school schedule, bringing the school year back to a full 180-day schedule. He also proposed funding increases in several other areas, most notably an additional $147 million for enrollment growth and teacher salary raises throughout K-12 education.
"We must continue to make K-12 education a top priority, because Georgia recently ranked 45th out of the 47 states that reported graduation rates," said Deal. "This is unacceptable."
Once again, Deal reminded the General Assembly that Georgia still plans to reject Medicaid expansion. He also reaffirmed his support for the provider fee, insisting that lawmakers allow for the Department of Community Health to levy a "bed" tax, which would prevent a revenue shortfall of nearly $700 million.
"Since we cannot adjust benefits, the reduction in reimbursements to hospitals would be the only way to keep the program solvent," said Deal. "Those reductions would be approximately 20 percent, which would seriously jeopardize many of our state's hospitals."
The governor also touched on the continued need for reform throughout the state's juvenile justice system. In his speech, he requested that $5 million of the 2014 budget be set aside in order to encourage communities to create alternative programs. Those would range from substance abuse treatment to family counseling, and according to Deal, would help provide young criminal offenders with better alternatives while reducing overall costs.
"We can continue to improve our state's justice systems while keeping our citizens safe by reserving our prison beds for violent offenders," he added.
As Deal's speech came to an end, he touched briefly on ethics reform, taking a shot the press about "sowing the seeds of doubt and distrust" in the public's mind. Having said that, however, he added that the only way to truly dispel that sentiment would be to adopt stricter ethics laws for "all elected officials at the state and local levels."
"We can build the strongest foundations of frugality, efficiency, and competitiveness on which our state government will rest," Deal said. "But if the citizens of Georgia don't trust us, it will all be in vain. The vibrations of distrust will crack even the strongest foundations."
In addition, Deal also discussed a handful of other topics including tougher BUI laws, the Savannah port, and statewide economic development. To read all of his remarks, you can check out his prepared speech posted on the governor's website.
State lawmakers are expected to take a further look at Deal's proposed 2014 budget next week.
"Your god and savior Obama..." lol, what?
save yourself some time and stop…
I know nothing of what I write. My mother cleans up my mess I leave…
"However, the Republican leadership in the governor's office and the Georgia General Assembly…
On a box of ammunition.
The Falcons were never going to LA. Deal said it and so…
O, liberals created the gubament tit, now criticize someone for sucking it, hmmm. Your god…