The 2010 Eggs & Issues event has ended and the Georgia World Congress Center has emptied.
The highlights from remarks from the three men who lead state government: Gov. Sonny Perdue saying he wants to open the borders to health care plans sold in other states and that he wants to create a new system of teacher pay that emphasizes student achievement rather than years in the classroom or advanced degrees.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said he will push for tax cuts in a difficult budget year but that he’ll also emphasize cutting spending to meet an expected $1.5 billion budget hole.
House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) said there is an “opportunity” in the budget crisis to reduce the scope of state government to its essentials.
Here’s more from each, starting with Perdue’s plan for teacher pay.
The governor said he wants to see top teachers make the same amount of money as top football coaches, but in “our current system, teachers only receive salary increases for years in the classroom and advanced degrees.”
In his new plan, for which he will introduce legislation this session, teachers could choose to opt-in to the new performance pay system or remain in the traditional system, that rewards seniority and advanced degrees. Teachers who choose the new system will not be eligible for the other tract. Perdue said the new system would become operational in 2014.
On health care, Perdue railed against federal legislation now before Congress and said he wants to open Georgia’s borders to insurance plans available in other states.
Perdue said the plan favored by congressional Democrats to make health insurance more affordable and available will hammer states.
“It will create a financial burden on the states that is simply un-manageable, and unimaginable,” Perdue said.
In his seven years in office, he said, he’s worked to make “health insurance more affordable and available here for more Georgians,” and noted that the state’s growth in public health care plans has dropped from about 12 percent a year to 2 to 4 percent.
“We can do more,” he said, “particularly in the individual market.”
To that end, he said, he will introduce legislation this year “to allow individuals to buy health plans approved for sale in other states. The restriction on interstate commerce never made sense to me.”
The idea behind the legislation is to widen the marketplace, where more health insurance plans are available thereby driving down costs for consumers.
Appearing together on stage with Ralston, Cagle said lawmakers will seek to cut taxes to spur the state’s faltering economy.
With the state already facing a budget that is $3 billion less than it was four years ago, and preparing to cut another $1.5 billion, Cagle said the Senate will work to insure “we do the responsible thing, create efficiencies and bring government back to the 21st century and focus very deeply on cutting taxes.”
After the event, Cagle said the focus remains on cutting spending, but said the Senate will pursue a cut to the state’s capital gains tax, a proposal Perdue vetoed in 2009. The Senate will also move to cap the state’s energy tax and as soon as next week could propose property tax relief.
Ralston, meanwhile, said the budget crisis provides an “opportunity” for the General Assembly to determine what state government should and should not be doing.
“We know we have a challenging budget situation,” Ralston said.