State Sen. Casey Cagle, R-Gainesville, briefed members of the Martinez-Evans Rotary Club about the major issues of the current legislative session during a luncheon at Augusta Towers on Friday.
Cagle, the chairman of the senate finance committee and a candidate for lieutenant governor, said education, job creation and illegal immigration are some of the remaining major issues under the Gold Dome following Gov. Sonny Perdue's recent signing of an amended voter identification bill.
Cagle cited education as the biggest crisis facing Georgia, saying that 45 percent of incoming high school freshman will not graduate.
"Education is tied to jobs and if someone wants to experience the American dream of a good paying job they're going to have to get a good education," Cagle said.
Of the $1.25 billion in excess tax revenue the state collected in 2005, the governor has proposed spending 72 percent on education, Cagle said.
Columbia County school officials have said a proposal by the governor to require class sizes to shrink to 18 in elementary grades would require more portable classrooms, and Perdue's proposal to require schools to spend 65 percent of their budget in the classroom has rankled many school systems, including Richmond County.
After the luncheon, Cagle said the bill mandating spending has a long way to go.
"I feel that if a school system is meeting state standards or is exceeding state standards, then they should be exempt from all of the funding requirements," Cagle said.
State legislators also are concentrating on job creation, said Cagle, who was questioned why Georgia is losing jobs to other states.
The senator said state officials need to work more closely with county and city governments in wooing new industry to Georgia.
"Government doesn't create jobs, but government does create the right infrastructure and circumstances for (businesses) to flourish and be successful," Cagle said.
Georgia, he said, is heading in the right direction with passage of tort reform and changes to corporate income tax regulations passed last year. The state, he said, needs to push forward and act to reduce the cost of health care and govern more efficiently.
Cagle also touched on illegal immigration, saying it is being addressed this session with bills that would require proof of citizenship or legal status to get welfare, food stamps and state-financed health care.
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