Deal to create task forces for jobs, water and school funding

ATLANTA -- Gov. Nathan Deal announced this morning he is appointing three task forces to generate ideas for his top priorities, jobs, water and school funding.

 “It is time that we deal with these issues in a serious and meaningful manner,” he told members of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce during the organization’s annual Eggs & Issues breakfast.

The Georgia Competitiveness Initiative builds on the importance he places in education, he said. It will involve a panel of business executives from across the state who will offer recommendations on ways to stimulate private job creation.

“It’s to simply say, ‘are there things that are making us non-competitive?’ And if there are, how do we make them better?”  he said.

His water task force will be made up of top officials from state agencies dealing with the environment, finance and assistance to local governments. Its assignment will be to use $300 million in funding he intends to provide over the next four years to help cities and counties develop sources for drinking water, from expanding reservoirs and reusing abandoned gravel pits to building new reservoirs or storing water in underground aquifers.

The school-funding panel will tackle a problem hanging over his predecessors. The 25-year-old Quality Basic Education Act has a complex formula for funding school districts based on their enrollment, local tax base, and other factors. Experts agree the state has never appropriated all the money to local districts that the formula specifies.

“It does not serve us in the overall scheme of things to spend our money educating our children through K-12, through college and higher education, and not be able to provide them with jobs that keep them in our state,” he said. “So jobs and education, the two most important issues in our future, are inextricably linked.”

Three years ago, then-Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed a commission to revamp the formula, but after two years of work, it came up empty-handed. Observers say most of the problem is a huge tax increase would be required, but politicians aren’t eager to take more from taxpayers still reeling from the effects of the recent recession.

Deal didn’t set a deadline for any of the task forces to report their recommendations.

Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said after Deal’s speech that the hoped to be part of the governor’s quest for ideas regarding the intersection of jobs and education.

“In this very competitive market, when you’re talking about attracting industry, work force is the key,” he said. “It’s not enough any more to have a great location, and many times it’s not enough just to have tax incentives. You have to be able to have the personnel to do the jobs.”

 

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