by: Richard Elliot Updated:
ATLANTA - Governor Nathan Deal focused on budget, education and healthcare in his State of the State address on Wednesday.
The theme of the address delivered from the State House chamber was “Accentuate the Positive.”
Channel 2’s Richard Elliot was there for the address for updates on Channel 2 Action News.
Deal talked about the positive achievements of his administration.
“For four straight years, Georgia has been named the best state in the nation for business. Now why did this happen? Because we had faith and accentuated the positive,” he said.
He said unemployment is down and tax revenues are up.
"The result that 10.4 percent unemployment rate has dropped to 5.3 percent. Our rainy day fund has increased to approximately $2.3 billion with prudent budgeting, we have set new records in trade, film and tourism," Deal said.
The governor laid out his plans for the state, which includes raises.
Gov. Deal is proposing a 19% pay raise for DFCS case workers.— Richard Elliot (@RElliotWSB) January 11, 2017
Deal proposed a 19 percent pay raise for Division of Family and Children Services case workers.
He also proposed a 2 percent raise for high-performing state employees.
"It's critical that we invest in our social work system and even more importantly that we support our foster children and the willingness to invest not a nominal sum, but 19 percent increase in pay raises, I think, signals his strong commitment to these children," House Democratic leader Stacy Abrams said.
Deal also talked about the negatives, including a growing number of chronically failing schools.
"If this pattern of escalation in the number of failing schools does not change, its devastating effects on our state will grow with each passing school year," Deal said.
He said he wants to find a way to rescue the close to 90,000 students in those failing schools.
He said he wants to focus on elementary schools, which need the most support.
"If we can bring our reading skills and math skills and all of the other requirements up to par before they leave elementary school it is also cheaper to do that and it may require additional shift of resources to be able to achieve that," Deal said.
Deal is talking about his worry over the growing number of chronically failing schools. The numbers are up year to year.— Richard Elliot (@RElliotWSB) January 11, 2017
Sid Chapman of the Georgia Association of Educators applauded Deal's plan to increase the pay scale for state authorized teachers by four percent, but still isn't sure about how the state determines failing schools.
"A lot of the schools would not be on a failing list in the other states because of the way it's formalized," he said.
Deal said he is still working with House and Senate leaders to come up with the specifics of his education plan, after voters rejected his plan to take over failing schools through a constitutional amendment.
The governor did have positive education news, saying the state's high school graduation rate went up from 67 percent five years ago to 79 percent today.
Deal says his FY2018 budget is based on a projected revenue growth of 3.6% over the amended FY2017 budget.— Richard Elliot (@RElliotWSB) January 11, 2017
Deal also acknowledged the plan by congressional Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare, but he cautioned state lawmakers not to act too rashly until they know just what that plan is.
"I want to take a moment to caution against taking giant steps on healthcare policy until we know what Congress and the incoming administration will do," he said.
Overall, Deal was optimistic about Georgia in the coming year.
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