Lt. Governor Casey Cagle Brings Campaign for Governor to South Georgia

David Shivers

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Against a backdrop of farm equipment and grain silos, Georgia lieutenant governor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Casey Cagle brought his campaign to South Georgia on May 3rd, with Albany his first stop of the day. The State Senate’s top officer announced on Sunday that he would run for the chance to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal in 2018.

Arriving at Nonami Plantation, Lt. Gov. Cagle briefly worked the crowd of several dozen area legislators, community and business leaders, farmers, and other supporters before launching into the highlights of his campaign platform ranging across several topics, including job creation, regulatory reform, infrastructure, tax reform, workforce development, education, rural healthcare access, and water rights.

Agriculture is Georgia’s number one industry with a $75 billion economic impact from production of food and fiber. “It’s something that we will continue to be committed to,” Cagle pledged.

Cagle reiterated his commitment to create 500,000 new jobs in Georgia in the first four years of his administration, helping existing companies to expand and recruiting new ones. He pledged he will go “near and far to bring jobs to our state, ” as well as commitment and focus on entrepreneurs,  “those individuals who are out there looking for new ideas, new markets, new abilities to create industry.” Cagle also said expanding the business incubator across the state would be a very high priority.

Under his administration, he said, an economic development liaison office would be established to assist new businesses in navigating bureaucracy, “ensuring that they’re able to get the permits they need to get open for business so they can create the jobs.”

On infrastructure, Cagle said, “We need a strong, 10-year strategic plan that not only takes care of the maintenance of our roads and bridges, but also building out the infrastructure we’re going to need.” Deepening of the Savannah harbor and access to the ports there and in Brunswick are critical issues.  The candidate said he would bring transportation agencies together “to be sure that we’re building out an infrastructure that creates greater prosperity for all.”

Cagle outlined his ideas for tax reform and reduction, ushering in during his administration’s first 100 days “a $100 million tax cut.” He will propose a personal income exemption, he said, “so the first $12,000 for a family of four will be exempt. We will also index the personal exemption, the standard deduction, as well, where no Georgian gets a hidden tax increase.” The state government will be put on a diet, he promised.

“I think if we ask hardworking Georgians to make sure they live within their budget, our government should do the same. We will be committed to fiscal responsibility as a state.”

Workforce development would continue to be a priority for Cagle as governor. He cited his efforts in creating 40 college and career academies across Georgia, such as the Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy set to become operational in Albany in the near future, which Cagle said he is “extremely excited” about.

“Kids are able to leave there with industry-certified certificates or associate degrees, ready and prepared for the workforce coming out of high school,” said Cagle. Other initiatives include a three-year apprenticeship  program and “Move on When Ready”. All are designed to give students options “where they will be fighting to get into school versus fighting to get out.”

Cagle noted that rural healthcare “continues to be a real crisis for our state,” with several hospitals closing (including at least two – in Calhoun and Stewart counties - in southwest Georgia) and others struggling to survive. “We will continue to create greater incentives so we have financially sustainable hospitals that can provide for the needs our citizens have,” particularly critical care in emergencies.

On education, Cagle said bluntly, “We cannot tolerate failing schools.” Legislation passed in the just-ended General Assembly session, he said, provides for a “chief turn-around officer. They will actually be third parties that will come in to do assessments of the (failing) schools and then also put a turn-around plan in place. All of these things are not interfering with local control, but empower local control and local communities to be a part of the overall solution.”

Cagle said, “You’ve got to declare war” on low performance and dropout rates.  “If a kid can’t read on grade level in the third grade, it’s a clear indicator of an individual who will probably drop out of school before they get to the 12th grade. We’ve got to have primary education doing all it can do.”

He added, “One of the initiatives we’ll be rolling out is a very targeted program that will utilize technology in the third grade to assess those  students early on, and also give them specific access to technology that will help them get to their third grade reading level, which will be very, very critical.”

Cagle observed, “Some of these kids, they don’t have clean clothes, they don’t have food, they don’t have the mentoring, the parental involvement in their lives, so we’ve got to bring community resource centers within these schools to help these kids get everything they need in order to have a better shot at life.”

The “water wars” legal battles with Florida and Alabama are something Cagle said that as lieutenant governor and state senator before that, “I have worked on tirelessly. Florida, along with Alabama, is trying to get an economic advantage over our state, and we cannot tolerate that. As governor, I’m not going to tolerate that.” Georgia has been winning in the courts, Cagle continued, thanks to a statewide management plan put in place that also requires metro Atlanta to utilize conservation. That, plus conservation technology used by farmers, “have shown that we have been good stewards of the (water) resource here in Georgia, and will continue to be.”

After about an hour and half, Lt. Gov. Cagle departed Albany for his next scheduled stop in Valdosta.