As a new year arrives and we begin our proverbial “Forty Days” under the Golden Dome, I’d like to once again begin my weekly updates to you, my constituents.
The Governor’s agenda, of course, dominates the news. His State of the State emphasized that Georgia should “accentuate the positive” and count our many blessings for surviving the Great Recession better than any other state in the South. Our Rainy Day fund, once a mere $116 million – enough to run the state for a mere two days – is now up to $2.3 billion. Our unemployment is down from 10.4 percent to 5.3 percent, and for the fourth year in a row Georgia has been named the “Best State to do Business In.” In his address, the Governor promised a 20 percent pay increase to state law enforcement, a 19 percent increase to DFAC case workers, and a 2 percent increase to teachers. He praised teachers for raising the graduation rate from 67 percent to 79 percent during his tenure, calling them “Georgia’s everyday heroes” and noted that 50 percent of all new spending will be spent on K12 Education. He also pledged more money for Autism, early behavior issues up to age four, a $3 million facility for Veteran’s Mental Health issues, and a $50 million Cyber Innovation Training Center in Augusta. This facility, partnered with Augusta University, the National Security Agency, and the new Cyber Command at Fort Gordon, will be an “incubator of innovation” and make Georgia “the Silicon Valley of the South”. It’s amazing, but the Army is spending $2B this year in Augusta to strengthen our Cyber capabilities. That’s a lot of jobs.
On a personal note, I’m happy to report my work this summer as the House Military Affairs Study Committee has been turned into a permanent Chairmanship in Military Affairs. As Georgia has the fifth largest military population in America, with an economic impact of nearly $20 billion per year and providing almost one-third of a million Georgians, we cannot afford to ignore our military, especially as rival states budget millions of dollars every year to protect their own installations. Our Committee visited all of Georgia’s bases last summer, and to my surprise, every base asked for better K-12 education for children of military personnel. Based on these findings, I plan to spearhead an effort to improve education for military children during the 2017 legislative session by introducing a “School Choice” bill for children of Georgia military families.
Unfortunately, Georgia ranks at the bottom against our rival military-rich states in terms of education. We show our appreciation for the military in many ways, but if we really cared about these brave men and women, we would do the very best we can for their patiently waiting children. Georgia needs to do better.
For my other Committees, I will continue to serve on Education and Economic Development & Tourism. I also picked up Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications, mostly because of my work on “Caleb’s Law” – a texting-and-driving law I championed when I served as a School Board Member.
As always, I hope you will pray for me as I continue to serve Newton and Morgan Counties. I can be reached at 706-372-4114 or email@example.com.
Belton is a Republican from District 112, serving in the Georgia House of Representatives.