Governor Deal took the podium for the fifth time to speak to lawmakers about the state of the state.
Topping his list is education. Deal says in this budget, along with his proposal for next year, more than one billion additional dollars will go toward K-12 education. He also wants to modernize what he calls the “outdated” education funding formula.
"My vision is to create a formula driven by student need that provides local school and district leaders with real control and flexibility,” Deal said during his speech.
Representative Bubber Epps says now is the time to do that.
"I agree with him on the funding formula for education,” Epps said. “I think we’re in a point of time in our state that we need to revisit this."
The governor says maintaining the state’s roads, bridges, and infrastructure is important. That is why he is urging lawmakers to fund transportation needs.
"According to industry experts, simply maintaining what we currently have on our roadways requires a minimum amount of hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue each year,” Deal said.
Senator David Lucas adds with the deepening of the Port of Savannah, we can expect more cars and trucks on Middle Georgia interstates.
"A lot of traffic will be coming out of it and straight up 16,” Lucas said. “We have that bottleneck at 16 and 75 in Macon, Georgia so we’re going to have to fix that."
But where will that money come from? Representative James Beverly says lawmakers may have to raise taxes.
"At a certain point you can’t grow revenues unless you raise taxes to do that infrastructure that we need,” Beverly said.
The governor also talked about legalizing medical marijuana. He hopes to sign a bill that will decriminalize cannabis oil in Georgia, but it won’t be grown or distributed in state this year. Instead, a committee will spend the year researching to figure out the best model for Georgia.
"I want us to answer the question of access as quickly as we possibly can while going through the proper steps to ensure safety and compliance with federal laws,” Deal said.
Georgia families are frustrated with the revised House Bill 1. But Representative Allen Peake says he is looking at all options to help them get life saving medicine.
"I know they think we didn’t go as far as we could, but I’m telling you we took a huge giant leap with moving forward with the governor’s support of HB 1."
Deal also said in his speech, since he took office five years ago, more than 319,000 new private sector jobs were created in Georgia.