Gov. Nathan Deal speaks during a bill signing in February 2017.

Gov. Nathan Deal gave his eighth and final State of the State address, titled Orchards of Opportunity, Thursday morning, highlighting accomplishments and challenges throughout his tenure, taking a focus on business and looking ahead in 2018.

The GBPI team provided commentary on Twitter throughout his address, offering insight on progress made in recent years and focusing on the biggest areas of need for the state moving forward.

Gov. Deal dove into some economic measures toward the start of his address and centered the discussion around the film industry’s growth in Georgia.

“We seek to make Georgia a leader in all industries, however, which is why we have invested so much into our K-12 education system, because we know that the students of today are the workforce of tomorrow,” said Deal. “We have increased education spending by $3.6 billion dollars over the last seven years, which includes my final budget proposal, making the total education expenditure during my time as governor roughly $14 billion. No other administration in Georgia history has planted so many trees of knowledge.”

While progress has been made, the state’s funding formula is still outdated and austerity cuts continue to leave budgets short.

Gov. Deal continued to speak about education, emphasizing the state’s work on saving the HOPE Scholarship and ensuring future generations benefit from this program. HOPE has a solid foundation, but more work remains to meet the shifting needs of Georgia students.

The governor made a point to feature technical colleges in his address. 

“Our Technical College system is a resource whose benefits to the entire state will only increase as the number of students increases,” said Deal.

State estimates show a major need for postsecondary education in the future. Georgia currently ranks No. 35 in the U.S. in number of adults with some college education.

Making college affordable for all students would help address the growing number of jobs requiring postsecondary education.

The governor shifted gears to highlight the state’s infrastructure efforts.

“Thanks to the Transportation Funding Act, we are preparing for future generations and the sustained growth we’re seeing throughout the state through our unprecedented 10-year, $11 billion transportation investment plan,” said Deal.

Deal noted the Commission on Children’s Mental Health is charged with providing recommendations on improving state mental health services for our children. Funding for behavioral health and substance abuse are also major needs for Georgia. 

The governor did not make any mention of Georgia’s coverage gap, though. About 240,000 Georgians earn too little to get financial help to buy health insurance on HealthCare.gov and also don’t qualify for Medicaid. These working Georgians are stuck in the coverage gap without affordable access to health care.

Georgia remains one of only 18 states that have not closed the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid. For five years now, Georgia has decided to let the federal government keep billions of dollars meant for the state, refusing $12 billion intended to pay for Georgians’ health coverage and stabilize struggling rural hospitals.

GBPI’s priorities for 2018 focus on people and helping Georgians realize their full potential.

You can read GBPI’s full list of policy priorities here

Follow @GaBudget on Twitter for the latest news and analysis throughout the 2018 legislative session. If you’re not subscribed to our newsletter, you can sign up here.

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