The following are excerpts from Georgia Democrats’ response to Gov. Deal’s State of the State speech:
By Sen. Steve Henson
On behalf of my colleagues, we commend Governor Nathan Deal for his ideas and proposals to help better manage the state of Georgia. There will be many opportunities for Democrats and Republicans to work with him on legislative and budgetary endeavors.
We are all proud of this state we call home, and we all desire to make Georgia the best place to live and work. Regardless of politics or party affiliations, Georgians are united in the belief that we want a stronger state economy, we need jobs that pay well, we want strong families and we want access to affordable health care.
For the past decade, we have watched Georgia’s economic condition face many challenges. State revenue projections missed the monthly mark for nearly half of 2012.
Simply, the Governor cannot continue to blame all of our state’s budget problems on the recession. Our state budget problems stem from poor decision-making and wrongly placed priorities.
We head into a new state budget cycle with a $400 million deficit in Medicaid spending and an additional $250 million shortfall due to increased enrollment in our schools and colleges. These are examples of two budget obstacles, but there are many more.
In real terms, this means working Georgians have seen two decades worth of economic Democratic progress disappear. In the 10 years of Republican oversight our families have seen depressed wages, decreased wealth and historically high poverty, and tax cuts that have eliminated billions of dollars from our public education programs.
Despite some promising signs of increasingly strong job growth on both the state and national levels, average Georgians still feel the effects of the Great Recession and state policy decisions and will for many years to come.
The current administration has continued its budget cuts to crucial programs, which undermine the path to full recovery and increase the hardship of Georgia families. That is why, moving forward, Georgia’s leaders must move away from the bone-deep budget cuts of recent years and instead pursue a more balanced approach to our state finances.
Only by coupling strategic investments in the future with the revenue needed to pay for them will Georgia have a chance of building an economy that works for everyone – an economy that promotes long-term prosperity, provides low- and middle-income families the opportunities for advancement they deserve and promotes business-friendly communities.
Make no mistake. We are treading water with our state budget and our heads are barely above the water. It isn’t just the economic recession or general economy that holds Georgia back – it is our current governance and poorly determined economic priorities.
Creating jobs, creating communities that work, building strong families, creating an educated workforce and guaranteeing an honest government that works for everyone will be the focus of Democratic policy makers.
Steve Henson is leader of the Georgia Senate Democratic Caucus.