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Education, port, crime top Deal's to-do list

Governor will seek additional $579 million for education

Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 10:20 PM
Last updated Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 7:01 PM
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ATLANTA — Increased spending for teachers, job training, harbor deepening and crime reduction topped Gov. Nathan Deal’s agenda laid out Wednesday in his election-year edition of the State of the State Address.

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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal delivers his State of the State address at the Capitol as House Speaker David Ralston, left, and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, look on, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Gov. Deal says he will propose a $547 million increase in state education spending, calling it the "largest single year increase in K-12 spending in seven years." (AP Photo/David Goldman)  David Goldman
David Goldman
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal delivers his State of the State address at the Capitol as House Speaker David Ralston, left, and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, look on, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Gov. Deal says he will propose a $547 million increase in state education spending, calling it the "largest single year increase in K-12 spending in seven years." (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The budget, if approved by the Legislature, would also include $5 million to equip Georgia Regents University’s new cancer center, for which ground has not yet been broken. Completion of that research facility was a priority featured in last year’s speech because it addresses a major killer of Georgians and has the potential to make the university a nationally prominent research center.

Deal is also seeking $290,000 to replace the antenna at GRU’s WACG-FM (90.7) public-broadcasting station. Another $260,000 would match federal funds to renovate the National Guard’s Augusta Readiness Center.

He started the speech with a promise to begin work on deepening the Savannah River shipping channel to accommodate bigger freighters. He is recommending $35 million for it while expressing impatience with the federal government for the delay in its share of the project’s funds.

“I intend to start dredging on that project this year,” he said, recalling that Congress first considered it in 1999, when Deal was in the U.S. House. “We have studied and planned long enough. It’s time to start moving dirt.”

Port officials expect Congress to give the go-ahead soon to allow the project to begin with the state funds already appropriated even before the federal government matches the money.

Much of the speech was devoted to education. Although one teacher organization praised him, a primary opponent blasted him for spending too much while his Democratic opponent said he didn’t allocate enough.

The discussion of education spending is clear recognition that his challengers have already made it a campaign issue, including Superintendent of Schools John Barge.

Deal noted that state education spending has already increased $930 million during his term while other parts of state government have taken cuts in the wake of a 19 percent decline in tax collections below the pre-recession peak.

Nearly 82 cents of every dollar in new spending during his term has gone toward education, and funding based on the Quality Basic Education formula has risen 13 percent in that time.

The governor is recommending another $579 million boost in education spending in next year’s budget.

“My proposal represents the largest single increase in K-12 funding in seven years,” he said.

He predicted that would pay for a teacher raise and ensure that all schools can operate a full 180-day calendar year.

Sen. Jason Carter, D-Atlanta, said the governor isn’t putting in enough to do all of that.

“Despite what you just heard, the results have been devastating for our education system,” said Carter, who hopes to unseat Deal.

He said underfunding of education has prompted 38 local boards of education to raise taxes while most districts have increased class sizes and shortened their school year.

“Governor Deal will say repeatedly – as he said today – that he hasn’t raised taxes. But look at your property-tax bill and tell me if you think that’s true,” Carter said. “His cuts in education have become local tax increases. It’s a shell game.”

Dalton Mayor David Pennington, who is facing Deal in the GOP primary, issued a statement critical of the governor from the other direction.

“Nathan’s one-time, $579 million education spending increase is a page from his book of his former Washington life – throwing money at a problem with no real intention of fixing it,” Pennington

Meanwhile, the president of the Georgia Association of Educators, Calvine Rollins, was pleased.

“He was saying something we wanted to hear,” she said. “…We’re happy with what he’s done this year.”

The governor also announced he wants to expand the career courses that qualify for full scholarships to technical colleges and additional funds to help rural school systems overcome property-tax losses because of land conservation.

He set a goal of reducing the rate at which convicted felons commit new offenses by 25 percent by helping them find jobs and adjust to life after prison. That would result in 1,400 fewer crimes, he said.

One initiative that isn’t part of the governor’s agenda is expanding eligibility for Medicaid. The federal health-reform law known as Obamacare has already added $1,000 in costs for every Georgia taxpayer, he said, and expanding Medicaid would add more than $600 more.

“We will not allow ourselves to be coerced into expansion. I’m prepared to fight any intrusion into our rights as a state,” he said, triggering a standing ovation from conservative lawmakers.

Lobbyists for hospitals and patient support organizations took the comment in stride as a reflection of the political reality in the state. But they remain determined to continue pushing him to change his mind, arguing that federal taxes paid by Georgians are going to other states that have expanded Medicaid.

“We are paying for this to happen. We are just not having it happen here – yet,” said Linda Lowe, a consumer-health advocate.

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scoobynews 01/16/14 - 06:08 am
Pay raise?

Haven't seen one of those since Zell Miller. Oh that's right it's an ELECTION year.

Esctab 01/16/14 - 10:30 am
Just curious, but why does

Just curious, but why does GRU need another new cancer research building? One that is less than 10 years old (approx.) already exists on the corner of Laney Walker and 13th Street; and directly across from it is a very new cancer treatment facility. The GRU goal to become a leader in cancer research is certainly noble, and was an idea Dan Rahn pursued during his tenure. An explanation from the current GRU administration as to why a third building is necessary in order to achieve the research goal would be interesting to hear; along with an explanation of how the existing cancer research building will be used after completion of the one under construction. Each time Gov. Deal's funding of the new (third) cancer building has been reported, there hasn't much, if any, mention that GRU already has fairly new buildings dedicated to that category; so the reports almost sound as if those buildings don't exist and that the construction of this new building is a brand new concept. It really isn't that way. Just curious......

dahreese 01/16/14 - 04:06 pm
Scoobynews, you beat me to

Scoobynews, you beat me to the "election year" comment, but you are exactly correct.

I guess Deal is hoping the little increase in salaries will distract teachers from the removal of health insurance options afforded to them by previous governors.

As to the dredging of the Savannah harbor to accommodate bigger ships, the taxpayer is being taken on a ride for this one.

For example, the dredging of the river channel will not be a 'one time thing.'

It must be continually dredged and the taxpayer is a fool if he thinks the shipping corporations are going to be the ones to pay for it.

And that's not to mention the ongoing costs of the environmental damage....

And the Georgia Association of Educators need a president who understands politics - which she apparently doesn't.

David Parker
David Parker 01/16/14 - 04:33 pm
My guess on why new

My guess on why new facilities are needed to research cancer treatment/cures are due to the fact that we haven't found the cure or developed an effective treatment for say AML or other terminal types. The allocation of the money was part of a proposal or agreement made years ago, so I think the Gubna is just now making good on the deal. Still, saying the money is coming and breaking ground are seperate. Would be nice to see a ribbon and some dirt being tossed by several big wigs.

Truth Matters
Truth Matters 01/16/14 - 05:30 pm
Okay educators. The governor

Okay educators. The governor hopes that you will no longer remember how you have been over looked the past years and will now vote for him.

Every educator should read Dr. Barge's op-ed/letter in the before you decide.

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