A copy of the Governor’s speech follows this release:
Governor Sonny Perdue discussed education, economic environment and transportation this morning at the Eggs & Issues Breakfast hosted by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce at the Georgia World Congress Center.
“During these times we continue to focus on government’s core mission,” said Governor Perdue. “Now more than ever we must make sure that we get out of government what we put into it.”
At the breakfast, the Governor announced three proposals to match the state’s educational spending with its desired outcome. The first proposal recognizes the important role of leadership at the school level. Under the proposal, high school principals who demonstrate improvement in graduation rate, SAT scores and End of Course Tests compared to their school’s most recent 3-year average will be eligible for a $10,000 performance bonus. Principals could also qualify by leading a school that is in the top 5 percent of high schools in the state in these three areas.
The second proposal recognizes the role that quality teachers play in producing positive educational outcomes. The proposal for teachers is based on the Master Teacher program and would allow exceptional teachers who are willing to serve as instructional leaders and mentors in their schools to be eligible to receive pay increases of ten to fifteen percent.
In response to a shortage of math and science teachers and increased demand in these content areas, the Governor proposed taking a business-like approach to recruiting these teachers. The Governor’s proposal, based on recommendations by the Alliance of Education Agency Head’s Math and Science Task Force, would start new fully-certified math and science teachers at the same salary as a fifth year teacher. Teachers in these fields with less than five years experience would also be brought up to the fifth year pay level. In an effort to encourage and reward elementary teachers who increase their competency in math and science, the Governor’s proposal will also provide a $1,000 annual bonus to elementary teachers who hold a math or science endorsement. The thre proposals all call for the incentives to be available beginning in 2010-11 school year, which would be the Fiscal Year 2011 state budget.
“It has long been one of the chief fallacies of government to focus on inputs, usually on how much you’re spending, instead of outputs – on performance and achievement,” said Governor Perdue.
The Governor also proposed school board legislation to ensure that every student has the benefit of responsible leadership at the school system level. The legislation will standardize board ethics policies and board training, clarifies law delineating the roles and responsibilities of superintendents and board members, creates minimum qualifications for board candidates and gives the state the ability to find responsible citizens to serve on school boards when existing members fail to serve the interests of their students.
“Never again, do I intend for the state to be handcuffed by our current law and powerless to help students who are being failed by the adults in their community,” the Governor said.
The Governor also discussed two pieces of legislation to improve Georgia’s business environment. The first piece of legislation would protect companies with a significant presence in Georgia from lawsuits if their product received approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration. The second piece of legislation will provide relief to individuals and companies wrongly sued. If a claim is dismissed at the earliest possible stage, the litigant bringing the claim will be responsible for the prevailing party’s attorneys’ fees. And if the attorney fails to notify the client of this provision, that attorney could pay the award. Last, the bill will make sure that the costly discovery process will not begin until the legal merits of a complaint have been tested.
“With the help of the General Assembly, we’ll make plain that the threat of meritless litigation is not a viable business strategy in Georgia,” said Governor Perdue.
The Governor’s Eggs and Issues remarks also highlighted the need for a transportation system that delivers value. He noted that according to historic data, the common diagnosis of spending alone has not improved the state’s transportation system. The Governor reiterated his belief that consensus will be reached on identifying new resources for transportation, and the state must ensure it is delivering value on the funding it receives.
“There is great promise that we can deliver value if we can execute on the findings of IT3,” said Governor Perdue of the findings of Investing in Tomorrow's Transportation Today (IT3), which he commissioned to determine the benefits of increased investment. “But there is no sense in investing if you cannot be assured of a dividend, of a return.”
Lastly, Governor Perdue updated breakfast attendees on the Statewide Water Plan and said that the Speaker, Lieutenant Governor, and he would soon be announcing appointments to the Regional Water Councils.
Eggs & Issues Remarks
You know George, given the attention that the budget will get this year; I thought you might change the name of this year’s event to Eggs & Issue. But I’m glad you kept it Issues; because even in challenging economic times, we are tackling the critical needs of our state.
The national recession has had a big impact on every state in the nation and as much as we would like to divorce ourselves from that, we simply cannot. If you recall, Georgia tried to secede from the national economy several years ago and that didn’t work out too well. We are now on track for back-to-back years of declining revenues for only the second time in fifty years.
Each time I hear negative economic news I am reminded of the doctor who told his patient, “I’ve got your test results back and there’s bad news and worse news.” When the patient asks for the bad news first, the doctor says, “You only have 24 hours to live.”
The patient says, “Well Doc, that’s terrible. How can there be worse news than that?” To which the doctor replies … “Well, I forgot to call you yesterday.”
These days, it might seem like all you hear is bad news followed by worse news, but unlike that old doctor, we haven’t waited to take action on a negative prognosis.
After the last downturn the state’s reserve account was down to about $50 million – about one day’s worth of operating expenses. Since then, the Legislature and I have worked hard to prepare for these kinds of economic times, while hoping they never come, by spending conservatively, saving the rest and rebuilding our Rainy Day Fund.
In March, as the national economy began to soften, in the middle of the session, I took an unprecedented step, reducing the revenue estimate by $245 million. This forced some tough decisions midway through budget negotiations. We instructed every agency head – the men and women who know their mission best – to develop strategic plans to surgically reduce their department budgets.
And they have done great work to identify reductions while maintaining the ability to fulfill the core mission of government … providing services for people which they can’t provide for themselves and doing those things in a way that is transparent, fair and efficient.
Unlike the downturn we faced six years ago, this time, agencies willingly responded to my call for restrained spending and returned over $200 million to our state’s Rainy Day Fund at the end of last year. $200 million … real money and that will help today. Ladies and gentlemen, I can not think of a better testament to the culture change that we’ve made in state government.
… As the business, community and civic leaders of this state; you understand the importance of education. Increasing student achievement remains our number one priority.
A look at this slide will remind you where we were when I took office six years ago – our graduation rate was an embarrassing 63 percent. Since then, we have focused on improving our graduation rate, an effort that includes our Graduation Coach Program, and, in the last six years, our graduation rate has risen from 63 to over 75 percent. Those are tough numbers to move.
This next slide shows that, over the last two years alone, 4,500 fewer students have dropped out of Georgia’s high schools. That makes a difference in 4,500 lives!
Yet there remains much work to be done and, this morning, I will share three ideas that will further our progress. First, leaders matter; and I’ll ask the General Assembly to establish a high school principal incentive pay program. Under this program, a principal who can consistently improve student achievement will receive a $10,000 bonus.
I will propose legislation to create a merit pay program that will identify and reward teachers who increase student achievement.
Third, we must address our shortage of math and science teachers … Our new high school graduation rule requires four years of science to earn a diploma and, last year, our state produced just three physics teachers.
I will propose a bill that will pay new fully-certified math and science teachers as fifth year teachers and bring all of our current math and science teachers up to that pay level. This will give our schools the same kind of employee recruitment tool that you use in your businesses.
It has long been one of the chief fallacies of government to focus on inputs, usually on how much you’re spending, instead of outputs – on performance and achievement. I know this business crowd understands the importance of being accountable for results.
That’s the culture change we’ve tried to make in state government, focusing our investment on generating measurable outcomes.
Leadership makes a difference at the school level and it makes a difference at the system level. In the past year, we’ve seen the stark contrast between a responsible school board and a dysfunctional one.
This spring, our State Board of Education charged the Georgia Chamber, the Metro Chamber and other stakeholders to review best practices in local school board governance across the nation.
The commission produced strong recommendations that serve as the backbone of the legislation I will ask the General Assembly to consider. The legislation will standardize board ethics policies and board training. It will clarify law delineating the roles and responsibilities of superintendents and board members and create minimum qualifications for board candidates.
Lastly and most importantly, it will give the state the ability, not to take over schools, but to find responsible citizens to serve on school boards when the existing members fail to serve the interests of their students.
Let’s be clear, most school board members in this state are conscientious servants of the students they are charged to oversee. But, I have sat in that governor’s chair and watched the fallout from a dysfunctional school board undermine earnest teachers and their students … and it is heart-wrenching. Never again, do I intend for the state to be handcuffed by our current law and powerless to help students who are being failed by the adults in their community.
And just as we have to continue making progress in education; we also have to ensure that our graduates enter a fertile business environment.
This session, I will propose two pieces of legislation that will make Georgia more friendly to business. First, we will cement our position as a leader in the biotech industry by enacting laws that respect the role of the federal Food and Drug Administration as the regulator of the safety of drugs and medical devices.
As other states have decided, I believe that FDA approval should mean something … It certainly should imply protection from tort lawsuits. This legislation will say that companies with a significant presence in Georgia will not be subject to product liability claims within this state if the FDA approved the medical device, drug or the labeling along with it. The legislation will make Georgia an even more attractive environment for biotechnology companies.
Secondly, Georgia’s courts are crowded with nuisance lawsuits, but unfortunately, they are often cheaper to settle than to litigate. Current law provides almost no deterrent for frivolous lawsuits and that must change.
I’m asking the General Assembly to pass another tort reform bill that will provide relief to individuals and companies wrongly sued. In short, if a claim is dismissed at the earliest possible stage, the litigant bringing the claim will be responsible for the prevailing party’s attorneys’ fees.
If the attorney fails to notify the client of this provision, that attorney could pay the award. Lastly, the bill will make sure that the costly discovery process will not begin until the legal merits of a complaint have been tested.
This will free up our courts to pursue justice in cases with merit, protect our existing businesses that provide jobs for Georgians and attract new investment. With the help of the General Assembly, we’ll make plain that the threat of meritless litigation is not a viable business strategy in Georgia.
… A thriving business climate also includes a transportation network that supports commerce. Early in my first term, I was assured that the solution to our transportation needs was to spend more money. Like many government programs, the only diagnosis was lack of money and the only prescription was to spend more of it.
But, just as I discussed earlier in education, too often we measure government programs by how much we spend instead of measuring the results of spending. As many of you remember, I launched the Fast Forward program in 2004, an idea that would speed up construction of needed projects.
This chart shows federal and state transportation spending over the last five decades when calculated as a percentage of GDP. There have been several points in our history where we ramped up our investment – in the 60s when we built out the interstate system, in the 80s when we added lanes to those interstates and constructed MARTA, and in the last several years under Fast Forward.
This next chart looks at the last 12 years – the six years of my administration and the six years prior. When you look at the data, it is clear that we have made a significant investment, and that our failure to keep up with an increasing demand is a problem decades in the making – not one that is fixed overnight.
On Friday, I met with the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker for a very productive session on our mutual commitment to address our transportation needs. We all agree that the most important thing for our citizens is delivering value for their tax dollar.
With our increased recent investment, one might expect our transportation problems to be solved. But we didn’t get the value that I was looking for from that money. That is why I commissioned Investing in Tomorrow’s Transportation Today, or IT3, to provide a “needs assessment” of where we are today and understand whether there is a business case for new investment.
The results came back loud and clear. There is great promise that we can deliver value if we can execute on the findings of IT3, but there is no sense in investing if you cannot be assured of a dividend, of a return.
We have proven that more money by itself is not the answer. It is clear that we need a functional, efficient system for delivering value, and the results of IT3 illustrate that it is possible.
Once I feel certain that we can deliver transportation value to Georgia citizens, I will support prudent, responsible measures to raise additional revenues. I believe we will come to consensus on funding, and I believe we will stand up a system that can take that funding and provide the value Georgians deserve.
I want to close today with a quick update on our progress in dealing with this unprecedented drought. The recent rains have been a true blessing, but as you all know we are far from back to normal. Our conservation efforts have far exceeded our expectations and, because of our dogged pursuit of common sense management, the Corps of Engineers is releasing the minimum amount of water from Lake Lanier every day.
Last year’s passage of the Statewide Water Plan is a significant step in the right direction, and the Speaker, Lieutenant Governor and I will soon be announcing appointments to the Regional Water Councils, who will put our plan to work.
As we focus on the immediate issue of the budget, let us not forget that the decisions we make today will determine the kind of Georgia we have tomorrow. It is my hope that we will take the opportunity of this crisis to begin building for an even greater Georgia.
As I begin my next two years in office, I’m reminded of an old saying, that “The most dangerous politician in the room is the one that doesn’t need anything from you.” While I may not be before you again, asking you for your vote; I’m asking for your counsel, prayers and support to ensure that we continue building for Georgia’s future … not on politics, but on sound principles.
Thank you and God bless!
Fayette Front Page
Community News You Can Use
Fayetteville, Peachtree City, Tyrone
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
A copy of the Governor’s speech follows this release: