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2014 State of the State Address
Much like the president's State of the Union Address to Congress, each year the Georgia governor gives a speech to the General Assembly called the State of the State Address. Both chambers come together to hear the Governor set the tone of the session, discuss the topics of the year and then present his recommended budget.
This year, Governor Nathan Deal focused on three reasons why the state has weathered the "Great Recession," outlining successes and promising further improvements.
Over the past few years, Georgia has experienced a real tax reform, Governor Deal said. The state has:
- Eliminated the sales tax on energy for the manufacturing sector;
- Removed the marriage tax penalty for working Georgia couples;
- Abolished the annual birthday tax for vehicles.
Governor Deal emphasized his belief in keeping taxes low. "Just as an individual cannot borrow their way out of debt, governments cannot tax their way out of a recession," he said.
All of these tax reforms and the constant focus of keeping taxes low has helped make Georgia a business-friendly state, he said.
Governor Deal pointed out that in three years, Georgia has created about 217,000 new jobs - forcing the state's unemployment rate to its lowest in five years.
To help keep jobs in Georgia, Deal proposed budgeting $35 million to deepen the Port of Savannah. He predicted that if this passes, it will allow for digging to begin this year.
Governor Deal attributed Georgia’s increased job growth rate to having:
- Favorable tax policies;
- Adequate infrastructure;
- Availability of a trained and reliable workforce.
To have a trained and reliable workforce, Georgia must continue to stay focused on education, Governor Deal said in his speech. Education is typically one of the biggest parts of the budget—representing half of all spending. Governor Deal said he wants to continue to focus on technical colleges and our pre-k through high school system.
Last year, Governor Deal stressed driving, practical nursing and early childhood education as main areas for technical colleges to focus on. This year, he wants to expand that list to an additional four areas of training:
- Health care technology
- Diesel mechanics
- Information technology
To keep emphasis on these areas and technical colleges as a whole, Governor Deal proposed a new Zell Miller HOPE Grant for technical students that would cover 100% of tuition for those with a 3.5 GPA or higher. He also budgeted $10 million for a 1% interest loan program devoted solely to students at technical schools.
Lastly, Governor Deal wants to create the Governor’s High Demand Career Initiative. This initiative would let the state know what exactly employers need in Georgia so schools can educate our students and get ahead of the curve. The program involves a collaboration between the Department of Economic Development, the University System of Georgia, technical colleges and schools and key leaders in private-sector industries.
Pre-K through High School
Governor Deal proposed that $8 billion be allotted in next year’s budget for K-12 education. This is the largest single year increase in seven years.
Governor Deal and the First Lady want to keep an emphasis on reading to provide a strong foundation in Georgia students. He also aimed to connect Georgia classrooms to the digital age with Internet and digital resources in every classroom in Georgia--including rural areas. He emphasized the importance of online learning in today's world.
Criminal Justice Reform
Governor Deal outlined a three-pronged reform plan to keep prison finances low, keep people thinking smart rather than in a revolving door of crime, and keep people in jobs rather than jail. In the previous two sessions, the General Assembly passed criminal justice and juvenile justice reform to address the first two goals.
This year, Governor Deal introduced the third prong: better equipping offenders for the workforce. He proposed more education and job training to help offenders find work after prison, thus allowing them to reenter regular life rather than being stuck in a cycle of crime. "He who opens a school door, closes a prison," Deal said, quoting the French author Victor Hugo.
Governor Deal said he has high hopes and ambitions for this year’s legislative session, focusing on the importance of education and job growth. To read the full speech, check the Governor’s website.
Photo Courtesy of the Governor's Office
About the Author
Bethany McDaniel is the Interactive Web Content Manager for GeorgiaGov. She graduated from Berry College in Rome, GA with degrees in Visual Communication and History.