Getting Started in 2016

By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

The Gold Dome bustles with energy in the new year as we reconvene for the second session of the 153rd Georgia General Assembly.  I am honored to represent you in the Senate and motivated to serve you at the Capitol in 2016.

I continue to act as Vice-Chairman of the Transportation Committee and join my fellow senators as a member of the Senate Appropriations, Finance, Rules, and Regulated Industries and Utilities committees. My 2011 appointment to the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Overview Committee (MARTOC) remains, as well as my role of Majority Whip in the Senate. Keeping caucus members informed and educated about legislation is a job I take very seriously, so please continue to give me your feedback on the bills up for debate. It is very important that the Senate Majority Caucus fully knows and understands how certain pieces of legislation will affect Georgians.

Governor Nathan Deal boldly set the agenda in his State of the State Address during a joint session held on Wednesday, January 13.  He commended the state for the economic and financial progress made since 2011 and spoke of the true leadership shown through the trials of the Great Recession.  In looking ahead, Gov. Deal prioritized extra efforts in supporting K-12 and higher education, the unemployment rate and transportation.

Gov. Deal heavily emphasized education in his address. He plans to allot $300 million of his 2017 budget to increase teacher pay, $416 million to K-12 education and $388 million to pre-K education. He also seeks to give $17.1 million for technical college grants through the Strategic industries Workforce Development Program and $58.3 million to the Move On When Ready legislation. Gov. Deal believes emphasizing education will decrease our dropout rate, which currently stands at 3.66% per year with 96,660 students failing to finish high school between 2011 and our current school year. He also wishes to drastically decrease the number of chronically failing schools that are affecting approximately 74,000 K-12 students in Georgia. To honor and award our best teachers, Gov. Deal set aside funds to compensate them with a 3% increase in salary.

Along with education, Gov. Deal addressed the substantial decrease in our unemployment rate over the past five years, from 10.4% in 2011 to 5.6% in 2016, and stressed the importance of continuing to lower unemployment rates. To remedy turnover in government jobs, Gov. Deal added a 3% salary increase to all state government employees.

Transportation was another main priority of Gov. Deal’s throughout his address. He praised efforts to increase funding for the paving of roads which resulted in a decrease of thirty years or more between road resurfacings.  In his budget report, Gov. Deal allocated $100 million to the Department of Transportation for repairs and renovations of bridges through the state and over $825 million in new state general and motor fuel funds for transportation in response to HB 170 from the 2015 Session. During a press release held on Tuesday, January 12, Gov. Deal expanded on his plans for transportation transformation, including a 10-year, $10 billion plan to increase toll lanes, add new highways, bridges and roads, and upgrade intersections. Overall, we have a busy session ahead of us as we push these policies and new ideas to fruition and make our state outstanding.

Thank you to all of my constituents for your involvement and constant care for the 51st District of Georgia. You inspire me to continue fighting for our great state and the “American Dream”. Please call or email me with any questions, comments or concerns you have and I look forward to hearing from you.


Health Departments in North Georgia Awarded Car Seat Mini Grant

Several county health departments in the North Georgia Health District were awarded the 2016 Car Seat Mini-Grant by the Georgia Department of Public Health, Injury Prevention Program. Through the Mini-Grant, health departments and collaborating community partners are able to work together to provide car seats and education to financially eligible families in Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties!

This program is funded by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to help ensure Georgia’s children are safe while riding in motor vehicles.

And it works! Since 2007, the education, car seats and booster seats provided through the Mini Grant prevented serious injury or death and saved at least 303 of Georgia’s children who were involved in crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car seats reduce fatal injuries by 71 percent among infants and by 54 percent among children ages 1 to 4 years in passenger cars. Car seats offer the best protection for children in the event of a crash, and they are most effective when installed and used correctly. Nearly three out of every four car seats are not used properly, placing children at unnecessary risk.

Keeping children safe is vital, and the Car Seat Mini-Grant is a great opportunity for communities to help protect kids from serious injuries or death in motor vehicle crashes.

In Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties, the Mini-Grant is enabling public health departments and their partners to educate parents and caregivers on how to properly install and use car seats, offer car seat inspections and provide car seats and booster seats to financially eligible families. Through the Car Seat Mini-Grant, agencies supporting more than 130 counties are working to keep Georgia’s children safe. These programs help families get their children buckled up right, every trip, every time.

For more information about the car seat program in North Georgia, contact the Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens or Whitfield County health department (numbers are listed below). If you would like information regarding other counties involved in the program, please contact the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Child Occupant Safety Project via email at or at (404) 679-0500.

Deal: Budget prioritizes education, transportation investments

Gov. Nathan Deal today released his budget recommendations to the General Assembly for the amended current and upcoming fiscal years. The proposed budgets would bolster resources for education, the state’s transportation network, public safety, health care, economic development, and efficiency in government.

“My team and I have worked diligently with our state agencies to produce meaningful recommendations that will resonate in the lives of Georgians,” said Deal. “This includes investing in education, prioritizing our transportation needs and continuing to spur economic growth. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to move forward with these priorities, as we balance our budget and store up crucial reserves for rainy days.”

FY2017 budget highlights include:

  • $23.7 billion in total state appropriations
  • $300 million additional funds intended for teacher salary increases
  • $26.2 million for Pre-K teacher pay raises
  • $825 million in new state general and motor fuel funds for transportation
  • Salary increases for state employees

Recommended state appropriations total $23.7 billion for the next fiscal year. If approved, the governor’s amended fiscal year 2016 and fiscal year 2017 budgets would, for example, assist local school systems as they work to provide teachers with raises while keeping students and teachers in the classroom for full calendar years. The additional $300 million for this purpose, combined with other funding, would bring the total additional dollars added for K-12 education over the past three fiscal years to more than $1.5 billion. The governor’s recommendations also include significant support for Pre-K teachers who dedicate themselves to setting the state’s youngest learners on track for success.

In addition, the proposals would help maintain and improve the state’s roads and bridges to keep freight and commuters moving safely and efficiently. Legislation passed last year, House Bill 170, has resulted in over $800 million in additional appropriations for transportation for fiscal year 2017.

The budgets as proposed would also provide for salary increases to help recruit and retain high-performing state employees, including for jobs with large amounts of turnover, to enhance services provided for Georgians; continue promoting reduced caseloads for individuals working to protect the state’s most vulnerable children; and advance Georgia’s justice reform efforts, which are yielding positive results.

The General Assembly will use the governor’s recommendations as a starting point to develop and pass the state’s budget, which the governor will then sign or veto. The governor can also veto line items within the as-passed version. The final budgets specify how much state funding various agency programs will receive. The current fiscal year ends June 30, and fiscal year 2017 begins July 1.

Links to electronic versions of the Governor’s Budget Reports can be found on the Office of Planning and Budget’s website. Highlights from the Governor’s recommendations for FY2017 and the amended FY2016 are attached.