State’s growing stronger in many ways

Following are excerpts from Gov. Nathan Deal’s Thursday State of the State address:

We have made communities safer, improved educational opportunities, provided for infrastructure improvements, driven workforce development, generated a better business environment and created jobs. Together, we have implemented innovative tax reform that incentivizes business growth, passed smart-on-crime criminal justice reform and saved HOPE.

This year, I challenge you to join me as we go forward with a focus on progress.

Just as Georgia is too big and too important to fall prey to Doomsayers’ pessimism, it is also too big and too important to be divided by race, geography or ideology. This year, let’s concentrate on the things on which we can all agree: The foundations that improve the lives of our citizens and undergird the bright horizons of tomorrow.

… Let’s capitalize on the success that we have already had in criminal justice reform, in which, last year, we crafted legislation that saves both lives and taxpayer dollars. Through increased use of accountability courts – drug, DUI, mental health and veteran courts – along with other measures, this state will avoid the need to add 5,000 prison beds over five years and save taxpayers at least $264 million; these measures simultaneously decrease the number of offenders who end up back in jail after being released – and create productive, taxpaying citizens rather than more dangerous criminals.

This year we will continue our work by bringing legislation designed to produce better results with juvenile offenders and divert them from the adult system.

Today, I am happy to say that my budget will increase the Hope Scholarship by 3 percent over last year, bringing the total funds going to Hope in FY 2014 to nearly $600 million.

This is quite a contrast to the proposed bankruptcy of HOPE that was projected to occur this year. That’s why I say, together, we saved HOPE!

For the last 2 years during this State of the State Address you have heard me say, “The state of our state is strong.” That statement is no less true today then it was for each of the two preceding years. In fact, it may be more true now when you consider employment numbers, increased job opportunities, revenue growth and the expanding prestige of our state in the international marketplace.

We currently have the lowest unemployment rate we have experienced in nearly 4 years. It is still too high. That is why we must insist that every young person get a high school diploma; otherwise, they become the fuel that stokes the fires of the unemployment furnace.

We have spent taxpayer dollars wisely. Using 2012 dollars, our per capita spending of government money is 17 percent less that it was a decade ago. And we currently have more than 9,000 fewer state employees than we had five years ago.

Nathan Deal is Georgia’s governor.

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