Key policy proposals from Governor Deal’s State of the State address

You can read the entire State of the State address here. Governor Nathan Deal delivered it last evening (Tuesday) to the Georgia legislature.

As I noted in a post yesterday about some of the Governor’s economic initiatives, I find the entire agenda a little thin. I.e., some good ideas — and some mediocre ones — but nothing sufficiently substantive, weighty, or ambitious enough to propel the Georgia economy forward.

I’ll post here just a few bits of the speech that seem to contain the most important proposals, with a few brief comments from me in brackets. Most of the dollar figures attached to some admirable initiatives are very small.

  • Georgians have charged us to set a course for our state and they have defined the stars that we must follow to expand opportunity:  the star of education – we must provide great schools that will cultivate the minds of our young people  … the star of transportation – we must provide safe roads and avenues of commerce … the star of security – we must give every Georgian the ability to live in a safe community … and the guiding star in our constellation, jobs – we must create a business climate that provides Georgians with their best shot at a good job!  These are the stars on which our eyes must be focused as we chart the course for our great state!
  • with your help, we have begun restoring the Rainy Day Fund.  The balance today is $328 million, an increase of 183%.  I remain committed to building up this strategic reserve by keeping our spending in check.
  • And for every student who earns HOPE, my budget for next year maintains the same award amount received this year. [But HOPE is likely to be in serious trouble in a couple of years because of inadequate lottery revenues.]
  • The Amended and FY 2013 budgets I’ve prepared take advantage of the stabilization in revenues and appropriate an additional $146.6 million to fully fund enrollment growth in our K-12 schools.
  • Likewise, in both the technical college and university systems, I am calling for an additional $111.3 million to fund anticipated enrollment growth.
  • Also, in keeping with the recommendations of the Education Finance Study Commission, and because we believe they are vital ingredients of the educational experience we provide young Georgians, my budget calls for $3.7 million in additional funds for school nurses! [This restores some previous cuts.]
  • My proposed budget calls for an additional $55.8 million to fund salary increases for our teachers based on training and experience.
  • The budget I’m proposing increases the Pre-K school year for 84,000 students by 10 days, bringing it to 170 days.  I am proud to say that this will allow us to begin restoring Pre-K teacher salaries! [But 20 days were cut last year.]
  • my budget includes $1.6 million for a reading mentors program.  This program will assist schools and teachers as they work to help more young Georgians achieve this strategic benchmark – reading at grade level by the completion of 3rd grade.
  • To spur innovation, I am also recommending $8.7 million in supplemental grants in both the Amended budget and next year’s budget for state chartered special schools affected by the Georgia Supreme Court ruling on charter schools.
  • Our postsecondary institutions must maintain an intense focus on employability and creating job opportunities.  And in today’s competitive global environment where technology is constantly reshaping the economy, that means abandoning the “ivory tower” model and adapting to meet the needs of business.
  • I’m announcing Go Build Georgia this evening.  Go Build is a public-private initiative that will round out our workforce development program by educating young people and the public at large about the skilled trades.
  • Georgians deserve a world-class, public medical university, and it will be a priority of this administration to have a medical college among the top 50 nationally.  [Emory is top 25, but private. I think the word “public” was left out of last night’s address, which drew some attention.]
  • To support this goal of a second Georgia-based Cancer Center, my budget proposal includes an investment of $5 million.
  • My budget funds 400 new residency slots in hospitals across the state.
  • The regional referendums on this year’s ballots give voters the opportunity to fund a slate of projects with a sales tax when they deem the proposed investment provides value.
  • We are continuing to work towards the completion of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project – a project that is imperative to our state’s competiveness when the bigger ships start traversing an enlarged Panama Canal in 2014. My budget for next year includes $46.7 million in bonds to continue deepening the harbor, building on the more than $136 million already approved for harbor deepening over the last three years. [The full price tag will likely be over $600 million.]
  • My budget for next year proposes $45.7 million for water supply projects, the second installment in a four-year plan calling for $300 million of new investment in water supply.
  • my budget proposes $1.4 million to fund additional parole officers at the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.
  • I am also recommending $35.2 million for additional prison beds for those who pose a threat to our citizens.  I am proposing to convert three Pre-Release Centers to Residential Substance Abuse Treatment centers, at a cost of $5.7 million.
  • I am also recommending $10 million in next year’s budget for the creation of new Accountability Courts – drug, DUI, mental health and veteran courts – all of which have proven to be both cheaper and more effective than traditional courts for those lower risk offenders falling under their jurisdiction.
  • I am proposing the elimination of the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, a move that will align us with many of our top competitors.  This will have a dramatic impact on manufacturers’ overall cost structure and vastly improve the competitive position of our producers.
  • I am proposing sales and use tax exemptions for construction materials used in projects of regional significance, giving us an important tool when competing with other states for projects creating large numbers of jobs.
  • A third piece, we are proposing to restructure Georgia’s Job Tax Credits and Quality Jobs Tax Credit programs.  The programs now in place was created in 1994, at a time when the competitive landscape was far different than the one our businesses operate in today.  We will modernize our job tax credits to better incentivize small business growth and to help every Georgia community compete with their regional peers.