Why Candidate Deal Should Remain Governor Deal – In His Own Words
Tuesday, September 9th, 2014
Georgia CEO has been privileged to correspond with our state’s candidates for Governor and Senator. There is no question that this November’s election is pivotal for the entire nation. This year, Georgia voters will play an especially significant role in the future of the nation as well as the state.
This is the first of a planned series of interviews with the four candidates. These are the ones we need to know the most about. Georgia CEO’s unwavering commitment to excellence in journalism includes the responsibility to foster an informed electorate. All four of the candidates in this series were asked exactly the same questions and their candid responses are here, verbatim, complete and unedited. With so many important issues facing the American people, knowing where our candidates stand on key issues has never been more important.
Georgia CEO: Georgia was named CNBC’s 2014 “America’s Top State for Business.” It was also listed as number 1 in Site Selection Magazine’s “Top Ten Competitive States (for business) 2013.” Some say that Georgia gives away too much to attract business and spends too little on other needs like education. What are your thoughts on the Cost v. Benefit of the State’s expenditures on economic development?
Governor Deal: I think Georgia strikes the right balance. After all, education, transportation, public health and public safety are all part of being a great place to do business. Since taking office, my primary focus has been putting Georgians back to work. During my first three years, we helped to create more than 250,000 private sector jobs and made Georgia the No. 1 state in which to do business. We implemented pro-jobs, pro-family tax reform to provide relief for all hard-working Georgians. These reforms include eliminating the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, the birthday tax on motor vehicles and effectively eliminating the tax penalty on married couples.
When I came into office, Georgia’s Rainy Day Fund had only enough money to operate state government for two days, and unemployment was high. We have now increased the Rainy Day Fund in excess of $700 million, and the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in five years.
We also saved Georgia’s Pre-K program and HOPE Scholarship, which were on the brink of bankruptcy. I worked closely with Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly to save the HOPE Scholarship in order to keep our best and brightest students here in Georgia. Our nationally-regarded Pre-K program has been restored to a full-day program, and we provided teacher pay raises while ending furlough days. This year, our investment in education includes an additional half a billion dollars to local school systems, the largest single-year increase in K-12 funding in seven years.
It’s by bringing the proper balance to public investment and pro-jobs policies that Georgia will remain the No. 1 place for business.
Georgia CEO: How would you balance other responsibilities such as education, Medicaid, infrastructure, transit, etc., with Georgia’s strong focus on investment in business and job development?
Governor Deal: I have balanced the budget four straight years while cutting taxes and increasing education funding. A strong education system leads to a strong economy. Both of my parents and my wife’s parents were teachers, so improving education has been and always will be a top priority for me. Even through very hard economic times, I have prioritized education spending. This year, I increased K-12 spending by more than half-a-billion dollars.
Deepening the Port of Savannah is the single-most important economic development and infrastructure project in Georgia and the Southeast. Now that the president has signed the Water Resources Development Act, we can finally get the work started. Georgia has patiently saved its share of the costs for many years now, so we won’t have to wait on the federal share to get the digging going.
To ensure Georgia remains the “gateway to the Southeast,” I am dedicated to prioritizing transportation investment. I have set aside several million dollars in additional motor fuel funds for road and bridge projects, including additional funding for the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank, which will leverage local and private funding for transportation projects with significant economic impact.
Medicaid certainly poses a long-term concern for the state. Because it is an entitlement, increasing costs in the program threaten to crowd out spending on other priorities. The Affordable Care Act worsens the problem because expanding the Medicaid program puts an additional burden on states, which can’t operate on a deficit. In Georgia, we’re choosing not to expand Medicaid because as it is currently constructed, we simply can’t afford it. It’s an example of how we make tough choices and keep government small so that we’re not passing on tax burdens to businesses and families.
Georgia CEO: Georgia’s unemployment rate is among the highest in the nation. Considering all the accolades of being business friendly, what must be done to bring real job growth to Georgia?
Governor Deal: I came into office in the midst of the Great Recession. Given the housing and finance industry boom in prior years, Georgia was among the hardest hit states. Making Georgia the premier state in the nation for business was a strategic goal from day one of my administration. By cutting taxes and reducing bureaucratic red tape, we have created 250,000 private sector jobs, and currently have the lowest unemployment rate Georgia has had in the past five years. While our focus will remain on putting Georgians back to work, the unemployment rate does not tell the whole story. While some other states have seen their unemployment rates drop, it’s sometimes due to a shrinking labor force. Georgia’s job growth and labor force, on the other hand, have both grown, and our state ranks in the top third for job growth, at 4.5 percent.
There are jobs that still need to be filled, and that is why I established the Zell Miller HOPE Grant and the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant. The former will provide full tuition coverage for technical college students who maintain a 3.5 GPA and the latter will do so for students enrolled in targeted programs where we have a workforce shortage. This program will give our citizens the skills to fulfill the needs of our economy and bolster the state’s ability to attract and fill jobs.
Georgia CEO: What is your plan to make Georgia even more competitive in the business site selection marketplace?
Governor Deal: We will continue building upon pro-growth policies that help reduce unemployment, create more private sector jobs and help keep our tax burden among the lowest in the nation. Maintaining our AAA bond rating and continuing to invest in our children and their education will continue to encourage job growth and promote workforce development initiatives.
Georgia CEO: Our members, business owners throughout Georgia, consistently name education and workforce development as one of their top challenges to growth. What can be done to better equip our workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow?
Governor Deal: We’re doing a lot of things right, and that’s why our workforce has been the named No. 1 by CNBC. Nevertheless, we’re still improving. I formed the Governor’s High Demand Career Initiative to allow those involved in training Georgia’s future workforce – the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia – to hear directly from the private sector about what specific needs they have from a workforce perspective. This initiative will create a consistent, trained and reliable workforce for the future. Similarly, our QuickStart program in the technical school system tailors programs to the immediate needs of industry in the region. This is a huge draw for businesses looking to relocate to Georgia.
Georgia’s military presence is among the top five in the nation, and we value our veterans and their unique skill-sets. To help them transition back to the civilian workforce, I have implemented workforce development programs, eliminated bureaucratic obstacles and signed legislation making it easier for veterans to find jobs.
I am committed to training the best teachers for our students, which is why we have created the Georgia’s Innovation Fund, an opportunity for teachers who demonstrate innovative teaching strategies for the Georgia standards in English/Language Arts and Mathematics. Educators who are selected as the best in their subject are then interviewed and filmed as to how they prepared the featured units. The materials will be available to other educators, parents, institutions of higher education and other stakeholders.
Georgia CEO: Another top challenge for business owners is health insurance reform. What role do you see for business owners as health care and insurance regulations play out?
Governor Deal: Health care decisions should be made between physicians and patients, not by one-size‐fits‐all mandates sent down from Washington. The Affordable Care Act has made a mess of the healthcare industry. The failed federal takeover of health care has already led to increased costs, policy cancelations, higher taxes and skyrocketing premiums. Business owners need security in order to expand their businesses, and the health care law has stunted that growth. We need patient-centered reforms that will lower costs, increase access and protect patients’ quality of care.
Georgia CEO: How do your views on economic growth differ from those of Jason Carter?
Governor Deal: I have an economic growth plan that’s resulted in job growth, lower taxes and a strong, business-friendly climate. I’ve overseen four balanced budgets while cutting taxes and increasing education spending. I believe government should do its job in an effective and efficient manner, and then get out of the way so Georgians can live their lives the way they see fit.
My opponent is running on his namesake, not his record. He has put forth no serious proposals or ideas of his own. My opponent wants to increase education spending by $1 billion, but he won’t say where the money would come from. He advocates an Arkansas-style Medicaid expansion that is more expensive than the president’s plan. He calls himself a fiscal conservative, yet he took a walk on voting for an income tax cap and was recently caught saying he wouldn’t raise Georgians’ taxes “right now.” Senator Carter is a tax-and-spend liberal who believes in bigger government, more spending and higher taxes. I have a proven record of conservative and effective governance.