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State of state looks to future

Governor addresses General Assembly

POSTED: January 14, 2009 11:59 a.m.

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ATLANTA - Governor Sonny Perdue today delivered his annual State of the State address before a joint session of the General Assembly detailing how the state continues to fulfill its core mission through challenging economic times. The Governor's Amended FY 2009 and FY 2010 budgets and policy initiatives continue his commitment to education, economic development and government transformation to deliver better value for the taxpayer's dollar.
"We must not allow ourselves to be trapped in a short-term mindset where rash decisions result in dire long-term consequences," said Governor Perdue. "Our perspective must be one of optimism even in the face of difficult economic cycles."
Governor Perdue used his State of the State address to formally submit his Amended FY 2009 and FY 2010 budget recommendations to the General Assembly. Governor Perdue's recommended Amended 2009 budget totals $19.2 billion and the 2010 budget stands at $20.2 billion.
The Governor thanked the legislature for working with his administration to help replenish the Rainy Day Fund, which now stands at $1.2 billion. In these budgets, Governor Perdue recommended using the maximum amount available for appropriation from the reserves, appropriating $187 million for the education midyear adjustment, $50 million in 2009 and $408 million in 2010. In 2009, a number of one-time strategies unavailable in 2010 will be implemented to balance the budget. Therefore, Governor Perdue recommended the largest portion of available reserve funds be committed to the 2010 budget.
The Governor's 2010 budget includes a $1.2 billion bond package that will create an estimated 20,000 jobs and features projects in which both design and construction are funded in the same year.
"These projects touch every corner of the state and include new construction at our universities, technical schools, local school systems and libraries; harbor deepening at the Savannah port and needed improvements at state facilities.," said Governor Perdue.
Governor Perdue also outlined a proposal to restructure the Department of Human Resources. Currently, $3.8 billion is spent within DHR every year. The plan calls for the creation of a new Department of Behavioral Health which will include all mental health and addictive disease programs. The bill also establishes a Department of Health, a combination of the public health and oversight programs in DHR and the current functions of DHR. Remaining social services, such as Developmental Disabilities, Aging, DFCS and Child Support, will come together under a reconstituted Department of Human Services.
Governor Perdue will also introduce legislation to ask those who receive Medicaid payments to help fund the system. This proposal takes advantage of the fact that every dollar used toward Medicaid purposes draws down almost two additional dollars from the federal government. The budget will reflect, and an accompanying bill will propose, a 1.6 percent fee on hospitals and health insurance plans to, not only fill the hole in Medicaid, but also to do what the healthcare community has asked of Governor Perdue's administration. This proposal will significantly raise Medicaid rates, particularly for hospitals; and in conjunction with the SuperSpeeder legislation, provide $60 million for trauma to sustain and expand the state's trauma hospitals, EMS and trauma physician infrastructure.
The Governor asked the General Assembly to carefully consider the consequences of cutting healthcare coverage.
"I implore you, do not rush into a short-sighted cut that would have long-term consequences for Georgia's most needy," the Governor said.
Governor Perdue highlighted the efforts by Gwinnett County schools to increase student achievement. Last week, the State Board of Education approved an IE2 contract and committed to be held accountable for increased student achievement above and beyond state and federal requirements.
For the 2009 session, Governor Perdue is proposing merit pay legislation that will award teachers who show evidence that their classroom instruction leads to increased student achievement. Governor Perdue is also proposing differentiated pay for math and science teachers. Additional legislation will ensure every student in Georgia has the benefit of responsible leadership at the school system level. This legislation will clearly define what citizens expect from Georgia's school board members, and it will give the state the ability to replace board members who aren't serving in the best interests of their students.
"Education means opportunity," said Governor Perdue. "We spend more than half of our state budget on education because we know that opportunity is discovered in Georgia's classrooms."
Governor Perdue's encouraged legislators and all Georgians to remember the resiliency of our great state, and while we confront the short-term challenges of today we will continue to prepare to take advantage of future opportunities.
"As I think about the American promise of freedom and economic opportunity, I know that rich promise will mean great things for Georgians in the years to come. The soil has proven too rich to dare believe anything else," the Governor said. "As I look within, I find something within the human constitution that bounces back, something within this collective American spirit that rebuilds. This is the time to continue building our state, to prepare for the future, to plant the seeds that will enrich our children's inheritance. Together, we will do just that."

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