Education is Economic Development
Because strong schools are the only proven route to tomorrow’s good jobs, we must focus efforts on producing well-prepared students who are life-, college- and work-ready.
Preparing Georgia’s Students to Compete
For decades, Georgia students, consistent with the nation as a whole, have lost ground to global peers and now sit in the middle of the pack when it comes to overall student achievement. We must increase rigor and ensure that our requirements truly prepare students to compete nationally and internationally. Because the state bears a responsibility to ensure that our students get their best shot at a good education, Georgia joined 41 other states in adopting Common Core State Standards which will help define what our students need to know, increase rigor and provide a tool to measure our students against their peers. It is critically important that we prepare our students for common core assessments, which come online in the 2014-2015 school year.
Looking to Those on the Frontlines
In order to learn from and build on the experiences of those closest to the work, we have formed four education advisory groups – composed of teachers, principals, superintendents and local school board members from each congressional district – which have already begun meeting with Gov. Deal on a quarterly basis.
Education is our top priority and the budgets submitted by Gov. Deal reflect that commitment to education. In good times or bad, education will be the top spending priority in every budget.
After winning $400 million through Race to the Top, a national competitive grant program, we have a unique opportunity to pioneer game-changing reforms in four key areas: recruiting and rewarding effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy; building data systems that measure student growth and inform educators on how they can improve instruction; and turning around our lowest-achieving schools. Georgia’s 26 partnering school districts, representing 41 percent of all students statewide, provide a diverse set of environments to serve as innovation incubators. The aim of this work is to prove effective reform strategies that can be scaled up statewide.
Economic development begins with strong schools.
We must identify and implement innovative strategies and solutions to better execute on the core mission of government to protect its citizens. This requires common-sense laws, well-trained and well-equipped law enforcement agencies and an efficient judicial system.
Rehabilitating Nonviolent Offenders
To better serve all Georgians, we must expand accountability courts and do a better job of rehabilitating the nonviolent offenders that currently crowd our prisons and strain our budget. The old way of doing things has created a stagnant situation with low rehabilitation rates, high recidivism rates and high costs.
Preserving our Limited Resources for Georgians
Passage of stronger citizenship verification laws is needed as illegal immigration continues to absorb our state’s limited resources. We must deliver a comprehensive, statewide solution that addresses illegal immigration and the burden it is creating on our correctional, educational and healthcare assets.
Economic development requires healthy, safe communities.
Confronting the Challenges of Obamacare
The enactment of the federal takeover of healthcare has dramatically changed the healthcare landscape in Georgia. For the first time in the history of our nation, the new law requires citizens to purchase a health insurance plan or face financial penalties for failure to do so. And while the United States Supreme Court ruled to uphold this provision of the law, they made the crushing Medicaid expansion optional for states. This proposed expansion would require our state Medicaid program to cover an estimated 620,000 newly eligible citizens in 2014, representing a 34 percent increase in current program participation. Conservative estimates project that the expansion would increase State Medicaid spending by $4.5 billion over the next 10 years. The total cost of the expansion for Georgia alone is estimated to be more than $40 billion over the same time period. This dramatic expansion creates an unsustainable budgetary burden that threatens to crowd out all non-healthcare investment.
Another important component of Obamacare is the implementation of health insurance exchanges. The state will not spend untold dollars on building and maintaining an exchange that is state-based in name only. To date, states are still waiting to receive critical guidance and regulations from the federal government on the creation and implementation of the exchanges. Republican governors around the country have repeatedly asked for answers to specific questions and are still waiting on responses from the administration.
Our state’s healthcare delivery system would benefit greatly from greater flexibility and we will continue to pursue additional control.
Fostering a Culture of Wellness
Improving the health and wellness of Georgians is essential to promoting our state as a great place to live, work and play. For far too long, the incidence of diabetes, hypertension, obesity and similar health conditions has risen in Georgia. The consequent rise in healthcare costs has adversely affected our productivity, quality of life and the ability to attract jobs to Georgia. This troubling trend must be reversed through a concerted effort to promote healthy lifestyle choices and disease prevention.
Strengthening the Healthcare Workforce
Georgia is home to world-class healthcare institutions and practitioners who are pioneering new advances in medical research and clinical care. However, we face a decreasing number of healthcare providers as our population in need of care is on the rise. To address growing demand on our healthcare system, we must find innovative ways to attract and retain highly qualified providers to our state. Working with medical, nursing and technical colleges as well as current healthcare providers and the Department of Community Health, we will work to make Georgia an ideal place to practice medicine.
Building Upon Georgia’s Leadership in Biotechnology
Georgia is a national leader in biotechnology with more than 62,000 jobs, $16 billion in annual sales and $6.2 billion in state GDP as a direct result. With the Wounded Warrior program coming to Fort Gordon in the Augusta area, ongoing translational research occurring at our state’s leading institutions and a host of healthcare providers and facilities on the cutting edge of technology, we have a unique opportunity to dramatically expand Georgia’s biotech footprint. This effort brings thousands of highly skilled job opportunities to Georgia and provides Georgia patients and providers with new therapies as they emerge right on our doorstep.
Economic development requires a well-managed healthcare delivery system providing positive outcomes and contained costs.
Building from a Strong Base
Infrastructure is key to economic competitiveness and Georgia's transportation network has always been a selling point. Georgia boasts a strategic location as the gateway to the American Southeast as well as a strong collection of competitive assets including two Class One rail lines, the most capable airport in the world along with an extensive network of regional airports, and the fastest growing ports in the nation. These assets have enabled Georgia to stand out for its ability to move people and goods efficiently.
Investing Strategically to Tackle our Network’s Shortcomings
Traffic congestion and unnecessary delays pose a real threat to our continued economic growth and quality of life. In these tough economic times, we must prioritize transportation investment to ease congestion and improve mobility. In 2012, Georgians will have an important opportunity to shape investment in local communities through regional transportation roundtables. It is imperative that all Georgians be involved in this process as we look to make strategic improvements within our transportation network.
Investing in Georgia’s Ports
Our ports are one of the primary drivers of economic growth in our state and Gov. Deal’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget reflects a commitment to deepening the Port of Savannah to ready Georgia for 2014, when the enlarged Panama Canal comes online sending larger, Post-Panamax ships to the East Coast.
Expanding Options by Looking to the Private Sector
In these challenging budget times, the state must look for opportunities to partner with the private sector to make necessary transportation improvements. Due to our positive demographic trends and strong balance sheet, Georgia is a particularly attractive location for public-private partnerships.
Economic development requires the ability to move people and goods efficiently.
Protecting Access to Water
Should the 2009 U.S. District Court decision severely restricting Metro Atlanta’s water usage take effect in 2012, it would pose a true threat to our way of life and economic prospects. We are continuing to battle this decision on all fronts – appealing the court ruling, continuing negotiations with our neighboring states and seeking congressional authorization allowing the Lanier Reservoir to be used for drinking water.
Expanding Water Supply
While we are seeking to address the court ruling through the appellate courts, negotiations and with Congress, we must also take aggressive action to bring new water supplies online. This work has been largely neglected for decades and additional surface water storage will be critical in reliably meeting our future needs. Over the next two decades, between 2010 and 2030, the state’s population is projected to grow by an additional 4.6 million people. We must prepare for the expected population growth as well as the droughts that are sure to come. To that end, we have allocated $300 million over the next four years to get the ball rolling on these efforts in strategic locations around the state.
We have directed Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (“GEFA”) to develop and launch the Georgia Water Supply Development Program. This program will mobilize state resources to assist local governments in developing new sources of water supply. In particular, GEFA is convening a Water Supply Program Task Force that will provide expert guidance in program development and ensure that our agencies are working together toward an efficient implementation.
Economic development requires dependable water supplies.
Protecting Georgia’s Natural Resources
Georgia has taken steps in recent years to protect the state’s natural, cultural and historic treasures, and we will continue to promote stewardship to ensure that Georgia retains its pristine environment for future generations of sportsmen and nature lovers. The state’s natural resources must be protected for both their ecological and economic value. Georgia’s natural resources drive tourism and support jobs around the state, particularly in economically challenged regions of the state.
Economic development depends on the sustainable utilization of our rich natural resources.