Deal began his remarks with a recap of accomplishments from last year, such as increasing the Rainy Day Fund by 183%, remaining one of just eight states with a triple A credit rating (from all three major rating agencies) and continuation of the HOPE Scholarship program.
Going forward, the Governor named education, transportation, security, and jobs as top priorities for the current session.
“Last January, we were faced with a mountain ... Together, we climbed it. Thank you for your partnership and thank you for all that you do to serve Georgians!” said Deal. “But this evening, as we embark on a new year, we have other mountains to climb that will require our best collective efforts this year and beyond.”
Even though his FY 2014 budget comes with additional spending cuts, the Governor plans on increasing HOPE Scholarship budget and restoring the pre-K program to 180 days.
Deal also mentioned the state criminal justice system, drunk- boat-driving laws and ethics reform as the issues that need attention at the State Capitol this year.
Deal spent a significant part of his speech on juvenile justice system as well as low-level offenders and the need to help former convicts to start a new life, outside of the prison system.
‘That is why we must focus on transforming our corrections system into a last resort of opportunity - a place where low-level offenders are reclaimed and restored to society as functioning members of the community ... working to support their own families ... and paying taxes,” said Deal. “This evening, I am calling on the religious community, non-profits and charitable organizations to begin addressing the problem of reentry. We need you and the people around this state who care to lead bold new efforts in job training and job placement for prisoners reentering society.“
The Governor said that the economic indicators show Georgia’s sluggish economy improving and that the “real job creation is much closer than it was when we met on this occasion one year ago.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, the state of our state is strong!” said Deal.
Click here for transcript of the full speech.