Though Georgia lost about $4 billion in tax revenues during the economic recession, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle told business leaders Thursday that it did produce at least one positive outcome.
“The beauty of an economic downturn is that it leaves you no other choice,” said Cagle, referencing the need for lawmakers to reconsider the essential needs for state funding.
“State government is now more efficient and more effective,” he said during the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce Post-Legislative Breakfast.
With the economy on the rebound, Cagle said lawmakers now are focused on growth and job creation.
Other area lawmakers at the breakfast meeting added that the Legislature this year passed laws supporting the efforts to deepen the Savannah River to support increased shipping at the Port of Savannah and eliminated taxes on energy used by manufacturers.
Such a measure provides an economic development tool to boost manufacturing business in the state.
“Manufacturing is coming back domestically,” Cagle said.
“As a percentage of value, America still leads the world in manufacturing,” he said, noting that “high-end goods” such as planes and automobiles mostly still are made in the U.S.
Cagle said manufacturers Mitsubishi and Caterpillar have or intend to build plants in Georgia.
To continue that growth, though, Cagle said the state needs a skilled workforce.
“Eighty percent of the workforce of tomorrow will need technical training,” he said.
To attain such a workforce, Cagle said Georgia needs more charter schools, specifically college and career academies, which blend high school and technical college curricula.
“We have to abandon the one-size-fits-all model,” he said.
Lawmakers in March passed a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to establish charter schools over the objection of local districts. Voters will decide in a referendum Nov. 6 whether to approve that change to the state constitution.