Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Deal-O-Meter

Tracking the promises of Nathan Deal

Dedicate all of the motor fuel tax revenues to transportation projects

"Transitioning debt service away from the Georgia Department of Transportation and dedicating all of the motor fuel tax revenues to transportation projects."

Consolidate transportation agencies

"Shrinking the size of state government by consolidating transportation agencies - some of which have overlapping or contradictory purposes. As governor, Roy Barnes created new transportation bureaucracy in an attempt to consolidate his power."

Will build more HOV/toll lanes

Supports High Occupancy Toll lanes for NEW construction to give commuters greater choice and to expand capacity.

Will deepen the Port of Savannah

Commited "to deepening the Port of Savannah in anticipation of the widening of the Panama Canal and improvements to infrastructure in Southeast Georgia to accommodate the increase in cargo."

Improve east-west connectivity to help north-south traffic corridors

"One of my major priorities will be improving our state's east-west corridors, including completion of the Fall Line Freeway from Columbus to Macon to Augusta. I would like to see a route south of metro Atlanta to divert the 100,000 tractor trailers that clog Atlanta roads daily."

Oppose tax increases

Signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, in which he agrees to "oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes."

Eliminate net worth tax

"Corporate net worth taxes penalize growth and development of wealth in Georgia, and as Governor, Nathan Deal will work to eliminate this duplicative layer of taxation. By doing so, the state will send a strong signal to current and prospective businesses that Georgia is an ideal place to call home and provide an environment in which to grow. Loss of revenue would be minimal to the state and would quickly be replaced by a stronger corporate presence and improved environment within which growth and development will be encouraged."

Eliminate business inventory tax

"Nathan Deal will work to eliminate this regressive tax to allow businesses to grow absent this additional burden and layer of taxation by allowing local governments to elect to extend current Freeport exemptions to more goods, regardless of who holds the inventory or the destination to which it is shipped."

Develop a plan for more specialized charter schools

"Develop specialized charter high schools with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math"

Create an education funding plan

"By June 30, 2011, Nathan Deal and a team of leaders will come up with possible improvements to better fund public education."

Create more reservoirs

"Develop additional reservoirs to address long-term water needs and enhance economic development"

No gift policy for himself and staff

"As governor, I will implement a total gift ban for executive branch employees to send a strong signal to Georgians that we will not be subject to undue influence."

Put his personal assets into a blind trust

"Will carry this (ethics) policy into the office of the governor and will put his personal assets into a blind trust to ensure conflicts of interest do not exist."

Help local governments develop business-ready properties

Will "create a local government program to help with the development of 'business-ready' property throughout Georgia."

Create a micro-loan enterprise program of $10,000 or less

Enhance access to needed small business capital through micro-enterprise lending

Create a program to spur business development

Create Certified Capital Company (CAPCO) program to fuel research and development

Pay off for working in tough schools 'still a goal,' spokeswoman says

In 2010, then-Congressman Nathan Deal unveiled a series of education initiatives he pledged to enact if voters would sign off on his plans for a job change and elect him Georgia’s 82nd governor. Among them was the promise that teachers would have a big financial incentive to work in bad schools.

"Teachers who agree to dedicate their time in one of our state's most underperforming schools would further be rewarded by accruing service credit at twice the rate, earning two years of credit for each calendar year served,” Deal said in a press release dated Sept. 7, 2010.

At that time, 503, or 22.6 percent, of the state’s 2,221 public schools were failing to make adequate yearly progress, the measure of achievement under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

We checked in with some in-the-know education advocates to see whether they’d heard of any action on this Deal campaign promise. None had. “That’s a campaign promise that probably fell victim to a comfortable electoral margin,” one said.

We went to Deal’s re-election campaign and spokeswoman Jennifer Talaber with some basic questions. Has the governor taken any steps to see whether this could become a reality or is feasible? Has he gotten any projections on the potential costs? Is he still pursuing this?

In one of several email exchanges that followed, Talaber said: “It’s still a goal.”

But other things had to come first, she said.

“In order to enact any merit-based incentives, we first had to fix the flawed (teacher) evaluation system which, when Deal came to office in 2011, was rating 99 percent of teachers as ‘satisfactory’,” Talaber said. “We did that in 2013.”

The new evaluation system will be fully implemented during the 2014-2015 school year, she said.

“Once that groundwork is laid, we can begin pursuing new initiatives,” Talaber said.

Deal’s plan would allow teachers to earn two years of credit toward retirement for every one year they work in one of the state’s most underperforming schools, the spokeswoman said.

No study has been done to determine the costs, Talaber said.

Under the Teacher Retirement System of Georgia, a teacher who retires with 30 years of service can draw about 60 percent of the average of his or her highest two consecutive years of pay. Some districts also offer their teachers a local pension or allow them to participate in Social Security.

As of May 31, the state’s teacher retirement system had 214,567 active members and 104,091 retired members. The system paid out more than $3.5 billion in fiscal 2013 and expects to pay out $3.7 billion for the year ending June 30, said Jeff Ezell, the system’s executive director.

Deal “remains committed to improving the quality of students’ education and rewarding Georgia’s most effective teachers,” Talaber said.