Pay raises for everyone, Deal says in ‘State of the State’

[private]Gov. Nathan Deal had some good news for the roughly 300,000 state employees and public school teachers — there will be pay raises for everybody in the state budget for fiscal year 2018.

On top of the 20 percent pay raise he announced last year for law enforcement officers, Deal said his proposed budget will also include money to provide 2 percent salary increases for teachers and employees as well.

Those increases come on top of the 3 percent pay raises that are in the current year’s budget, Deal said in his annual “State of the State” address to a joint session of the Georgia House and Senate.

“With these improvements (in pay), we aim to serve Georgia’s citizens more efficiently and effectively,” Deal said.

Deal had several major announcements concerning key areas of state government in his speech —

Healthcare

The governor is asking lawmakers to quickly approve legislation that extends for another three the Medicaid provider fee paid by hospitals. This will raise $311 million and bring in another $600 million in federal funds for Medicaid.

“We will soon complete the three-year plan to bring Georgia’s physician reimbursement rates in line with Medicare rates,” Deal said. “I would point out that we are not mandated to do so, but have chosen to take these steps because we want the best quality of healthcare for our citizens.”

Deal said he will also “work with the members of this legislature to enhance Medicaid and State Health Benefit Plan coverage for treatments of those diagnosed with autism up to the age of 21.”

To fight the problem of opioid addiction, Deal said he will ask legislators to codify an executive order he signed in December that allows naloxone, an emergency drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, to be dispensed over-the-counter by pharmacists.

Education

Although he did not provide any details, Deal said he is working with a group of legislators on a plan to improve 153 low-performing public schools that handle nearly 89,000 students.

“It should be abundantly clear to everyone, including those in the education community who so staunchly support the status quo, that this is unacceptable,” Deal said, taking a shot at the teacher groups that successfully opposed his school takeover plan last year.

“Our proposals for addressing this issue will place an emphasis on elementary schools,” he said. “If we can reverse this alarming trend early on, if we can eliminate this negative that directly or indirectly impacts all of us, then our reading comprehension scores, math skills, graduation rates and the quality of our workforce will all improve considerably.”

Cyber security

The governor is putting $50 million in the budget for a Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center that would promote the modernization of computer security technology in both the public and private sectors.

“In conjunction with the Department of Defense and the NSA, this invaluable resource will put Georgia at the pinnacle of efforts to enhance American cyber security in the public and private arenas with a resource unlike any other in the country,” he said.

Democratic legislators contended that Georgia was not nearly in as good a situation as painted by Deal in his speech.

“Look around Georgia today,” said Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta). “You will see our people working harder just to get by, our schools under assault from reckless ideas, and a health care system shortchanged by morally bankrupt partisanship.”

“The distressing fact is, the next generation of Georgians – our children – face a future with less opportunity than their parents,” Fort contended. “A child born today to a poor mother at Grady Hospital, just a few blocks from here, or in many rural hospitals, has less of a chance to work her way into the middle class than almost anywhere else in America.”

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Nathan Deal , State of the State , Vincent Fort