The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Augusta Chronicle asked the leading Democratic candidates for governor to address some of the top issues of the day. Here are some of Roy Barnes' answers:
Q: The state budget is expected to face even deeper cuts in 2011 and into the 2012 fiscal year. What will you promise to do with regard to education funding? Where will the more than $1 billion in estimated cuts to the entirety of state government come from?
A: In the past, Georgia has always made it through recessions without teacher furloughs or expanding class sizes, and today should certainly be no exception. When I first came to the General Assembly, there were only a handful of exemptions to the sales tax and income tax. Over the past several years, special interests under the Gold Dome have received tax breaks that only benefit them, and, as a result, we have eroded our tax base. Special-interest tax cuts are costing the state between $400 million and $800 million per year, and as governor I will stop these special-interest exemptions, restore the cuts to K-12, and ensure that our teachers are receiving the pay they deserve. Funding for direct instruction and teacher salaries will be the first priorities when it comes to education dollars. As governor, I will stand in the way of any attempt to elevate the interests of the special interests over those of the children and teachers in Georgia's classrooms.
Q: Do you support an Arizona-style immigration law, and what other plans do you have to address immigration at the state level?
A: When the federal government fails to protect our nation's borders, states like Georgia are forced to deal with the ramifications of illegal immigration. We are a nation of laws. All people -- including employers who hire illegal immigrants -- should be subject to these laws, and the law must be obeyed.
Q: Would you consider or support an interbasin transfer in which water is moved from the Savannah River Basin to metro Atlanta?
A: No, I am not in favor of removing water from the Savannah River Basin for use in metro Atlanta.
Q: Why hasn't Georgia seen the improvements voters say they desire in terms of K-12 education, and what specifically can you do to get us there?
A: First, we must restore the funding cuts to K-12, and keep our promise to teachers. Our state has had tough times in the past -- but never before has the state so clearly abdicated its responsibility to our public education system. Second, we must work to attract, retain and promote a high-quality teacher work force. Georgia's teachers have always been top-notch; however, we cannot expect to continue to attract and retain a high-quality teacher work force without the promise of adequate compensation for our educators. During my term as governor, we gave teachers a series of raises that boosted teacher pay by 16 percent, making Georgia teachers the highest-paid educators in the Southeast. I will continue to be a strong advocate of nationally competitive salaries for Georgia teachers. Third, we must place an emphasis on any measure that gives Georgia children the head start they need.