Deal emphasizes education, criminal justice revision

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Gov. Nathan Deal put his major emphasis on education and the revision of Georgia’s criminal justice system in his annual “state of the state” address Tuesday night.

The governor also devoted considerable attention to healthcare and economic development in a 42-minute speech to a joint session of the state Senate and House of Representatives.

“With a sluggish global economy we still face challenges, but we are beginning to see indications that things are stablizing,” Deal said.

“I believe real job creation is much closer than it was when we met on this occasion one year ago,” Deal added, referring to a situation in which Georgia’s unemployment rate has exceeded the national jobless rate for 52 consecutive months.

Even though Georgia’s revenue collections have stabilized and grown a bit over the past year, state government’s coffers are still not overflowing with cash.

Deal still said he would restore the full level of state funding to local school systems and devote small amounts of budget money to some promising initiatives.

Here are some of the proposals he outlined in Tuesday’s speech:

Education:  Deal will allocate $20 million for a college scholarship loan program to help needy students and $8.7 million to assist charter schools that have not been approved by their local school boards.

“Unlike the past, there are no reductions in QBE, equalization grants, state schools or other enrollment-drive programs,” he said.  Deal also wants to add back 10 school days to the pre-kindergarten calendar.

Criminal justice:  The governor will propose $35.2 million for additional prison beds, $5.7 million for substance abuse treatment centers, and $10 million for the creation of new drug courts.

Economic development:  Deal is asking the Legislature to approve three tax breaks for small businesses, including the elimination of the sales tax on energy used by manufacturers.  He will also launch a “Go Build Georgia” program modeled after an Alabama initiative that will encourage young workers to take jobs in construction and the skilled trade industries.

Healthcare:  He is including $5 million in the budget to help the Georgia Health Sciences University in its efforts to become the state’s second designated cancer center alongside the Winship Cancer Center at Emory Hospital.

Deal said his budget proposal will also fund 400 residency slots in hospitals across the state.

© 2012 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: budget , Nathan Deal , State of the State