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State Sen. David Lucas talks to WMGT-TV about 2014 General Assembly agenda

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On Wednesday, January 8, State Senator David Lucas (District 26) spoke with the NBC affiliate in Macon--WMGT-TV-- about the upcoming 2014 Georgia General Assembly session which begins next week.

The veteran legislator was in Twiggs County recently and had discussions with the Board of Commissioners and other local leaders such as the sheriff in regard to providing ambulance services to Twiggs County which is considered to be a priority in the mostly rural Central Georgia county.

Lucas represents a six-county district that includes Washington (Sandersville), Hancock (Sparta), Twiggs (Jeffersonville), Wilkinson (Gordonn-Irwinton), Jones (Gray) and the largest population center of the district --Bibb-- which includes most of Macon.

Lucas told WMGT's Ashley Minelli that the issue of health care along with the budget will be at the forefront of the legislative calendar in 2014.

"We are not fully recovered from the so-called recession. We have some immediate needs. We're going to have some rural house bills that will close based on money, and part of that is we did not accept, when I say we, the Governor did not accept the medicare expansion which was about 700 million dollars, and what that money would have done is fix those people that are in what we call the ditch," said Lucas.

The ditch he's talking about is where people who make less than $11,500 fall. They can't qualify for the Affordable Care Act.

Georgia is one of nearly two dozen states with Republican governors --including Georgia's Nathan Deal-- that are opting out of Medicaid expansion altogether, despite the federal subsidy that goes with it.

In December, members of the Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference in an effort to urge Republican Governor Nathan Deal to expand Medicaid.

State Sen. Vincent Fort said the following: .."If the state continues to turn down Medicaid expansion, urban safety net hospitals like Grady Memorial Hospital won’t get a needed infusion of federal funding. But he says rural safety net hospitals are in the greatest danger of closing."

In Georgia, no expansion of Medicaid leaves approximately 650,000 of the state’s working poor in limbo, without any subsidy to help them buy insurance on the exchange.

Lucas also added, getting through the budget will be challenging once again. He says that conversation will focus partly on giving state employees and teachers pay raises.

A political blog called "Better Georgia" said the following about Governor Deal's election year 'olive branch' to teachers who are state employees:

For the first time since taking office, Gov. Nathan Deal will include a raise for Georgia’s public school teachers in his budget. But educators shouldn’t rejoice just yet.

After years of stagnant wages despite the ever-rising cost of living, Deal is proposing a 2 to 3 percent raise for Georgia’s teachers. The small amount of the raise isn’t even the worst part: he’s ultimately going to leave the decision of whether to give raises up to local school systems. Some teachers will receive raises and many others will not.

Georgia’s teachers have waited four years for a raise and this is what Gov. Deal’s offering?

..."Teachers have fared even worse during Deal’s administration, as class sizes have increased in 95 percent of school districts since 2009 and nearly 80 percent of districts are still furloughing teachers.

If school systems have to make such drastic cuts to their budgets, how can we expect them to give teachers a raise..?"

Georgia operates on an annual budget cycle. Its fiscal year begins July 1 and the state is currently in FY2014.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed the $19.9 billion FY2014 state spending plan into law on May 8, 2013.

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