Gov. Deal talks pay raises; new reforms in health, education, and cybersecurity

Gov. Nathan Deal (R-Georgia).
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Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017

ATLANTA (WRDW/WAGT) -- Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal addressed the state Wednesday morning in his annual State of the State address, discussing plans for education, the state budget, and health care at the state Capitol.

Lieutenant Gov. Casey Cagle opened the address, calling the chamber to order. As Governor Deal entered, thunderous applause echoed through the gallery.

Before the Governor began to speak, Lt. Gov. Cagle recognized the justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, as well as various special guests and First Lady Sandra Deal.

Governor Deal opened his speech by referencing Georgia-native Johnny Mercer's 1940 song Accentuate the Positive.

Deal stated that when he started as governor the unemployment rate was 10.4%, and the state had only $116 million which was hardly enough to operate the state government for 2 days.

Over time, Deal said communities became safer; 575,000 jobs were created; and Georgia grew in trade, film and tourism. Georgia has been named best state in the nation for business for the 4th straight year.

Gov. Deal announced that state level law enforcement would be given a 20% pay raise because they deserved it.

He also extended a pay raise to DFCS case managers, a 19% pay raise for them, and a 2% pay raise across the board for state workers.

Deal also is pushing for a three-year plan to bring Georgia's physician reimbursement rates in line with Medicare rates, even if the state isn't mandated to do so.

Deal stated he will work with members of the legislature to enhance Medicaid and State Health Benefit Plan coverage for treatments of those diagnosed with autism up to the age of 21, and allocating $2.5 million to covering the full child population of Medicaid and PeachCare for children with behavioral and mental health issues. The Medicaid program for the state in the next fiscal year's budget will cost over $10.5 billion.

The governor also asked the legislature to remove barriers to mental health services for veterans and wants to allocate funds to train existing employees on services provided by the state and federal governments to better serve the veterans.

Deal also allocated for a Women Veterans Coordinator who will work with female veterans that have suffered military sexual trauma, offering counseling and assistance with veteran's claims and appeals, and $3 million in bonds to go to a sub-acute rehab facility for behavior health services to veterans who have traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder with an additional $3 million to build the facility.

Deal also talked failing schools, stating that 153 schools had a failing score for three consecutive years with almost 70% of those, 106 schools served elementary students.

"It should be abundantly clear to everyone, including those in the education community who so staunchly support the status quo, that this is unacceptable. If this pattern of escalation in the number of failing schools does not change, its devastating effects on our state will grow with each passing school year."

Deal's plan for failing schools calls for placing an emphasis on elementary schools, and will be released later this session.

"If we can reverse this alarming trend early on...then our reading comprehension scores, math skills, graduation rates and the quality of our workforce will all improve considerably," Deal said.

For those who thought the issue was lack of resources, Deal stated the government increased K-12 spending by 2.017 billion million dollars over the last four years.

Deal also talked about a new cyber command headquarters coming to Fort Gordon.

In addition to that facility, Gov. Deal said a new "Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center" would be built in Augusta. News 12 NBC 26 can confirm the center will be built at the site of the former Augusta Golf and Gardens.

The proposed budget includes $50 million for the state-owned facility, "designed to promote modernization in cybersecurity technology." Deal said the new initiative will be housed under the Georgia Technology Authority and will help solidify Georgia's reputation as the "Silicon Valley of the South."

According to Gov. Deal, Georgia currently has 290,000 establishments across 42 major industries that are all vested in cybersecurity in some way.

"With the Cyber Innovation and Training Center joining our already impressive array of cyber and technological facilities, Georgia will truly be at the forefront of an issue that we see more and more on the front pages of our newspapers and the nightly news reports," Deal said.

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