“Thank you for what you’re going to do to make sure that we don’t have another four years of President Obama in the White House,” Deal said in his closing remarks.
However, most of Deal’s remarks were made in a less partisan tone as he highlighted what he deemed as the successes of his administration over the past year, since taking office in January 2011. The Cobb convention was the only county convention on Saturday that the governor attended.
He said he increased the state’s rainy-day fund from $116 million to $328 million in a year and will work to continue to increase it in the upcoming budget. He has already requested state agencies to submit 2013 budgets at 2 percent below their current budgets and he said he will consolidate state job functions where needed.
Revenue over the past year-and-a-half has been on the positive side, Deal said. In February, state revenue collections totaled nearly $10.6 billion year-to-date, an increase of $471 million or 4.7 percent compared to the same period last year.
Georgia is one of the few states in the country to have maintained a AAA bond rating, saving the state at least $11 million if it had been downgraded, said Deal. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the state is at 9.2 percent, down from 10.3 percent in September, he said.
“We’re all at every level of government concerned with our economy,” Deal said. “But from the indicators that we have, our economy is slowly beginning to rebound from what truly is a global recession.”
Deal reported that there have been 467 new or expanded businesses, totaling $4.98 billion in new investments in the state, since he took office 14 months ago. That amounts to 29,517 news jobs in the state, he said.
Deal touted the recent announcement of Illinois-based Caterpillar, which plans to create 1,400 jobs with the construction of a new manufacturing facility near Athens. He also reminded the audience of Lowe’s effort to build a new distribution center in Rome, which will bring 600 jobs in three years. Closer to Cobb, he mentioned the 700 jobs that Home Depot expects to create with a new national customer support center in Kennesaw.
“Just hold on, there’s more to come,” Deal told the applauding crowd at Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta.
Reform of the criminal justice system ranks high on the governor’s to-do list, as he has charged a special council on criminal justice reform to overhaul the current prison system, which he said has incarcerated one in 16 residents. Deal wants to improve the rehabilitation rate and revise the punishment and guidelines for nonviolent crimes, moves he says will save taxpayers money. State Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) has already introduced a bill in the Legislature with similar measures.
“Hopefully, with the General Assembly, we will put those kinds of reforms that will make a difference to our communities and to our taxpayers, and to the safety of our state,” Deal said. “I want us to spend our money locking up those who are really the dangerous folks.”
What looks less certain this legislative session at the Capitol, is an effort by Republicans to change the state’s constitution to give the state more power to authorize and fund charter schools, after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled last May against the power of a state commission to approve charter schools denied at the local level.
The 36 Republican state senators need at least two Democrats to join them to form the two-thirds majority vote required to pass a House bill that paves the way for voters to amend the constitution.
Deal said on Saturday that he believes Republicans will remain unanimous and that the public will support the amendment, if given the opportunity to vote on it.
“I’m told we have more than 5,000 children currently waiting to go into an existing charter school and there are just not enough places,” he said. “So hopefully we will get that vote in the Senate and we will get it put on the ballot so the people of this state can vote on it in November.”
Between 500 and 600 people were expected to attend the Cobb GOP convention on Saturday. The purpose of the gathering was to elect hundreds of delegates and alternates to the district and state conventions, where it will be decided who will be among the 76 delegates from Georgia, tasked with nominating a presidential candidate at the Republican National Convention this summer in Tampa.
A number of elected officials were present at the convention, including state Attorney General Sam Olens, Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee, and members of the General Assembly. State Sen. Judson Hill of east Cobb and state Rep. Ed Setzler of Acworth gave legislative updates.
Speaking at the convention, Georgia GOP Chairwoman Sue Everhart made known that she wasn’t a fan of the party’s new system of proportionately voting on a nominee in state primaries and caucuses. She said it has created widespread confusion within the party.
“We have the craziest process in place that we’ve ever had in our history and I don’t like it, but that’s what we’ve got,” she said.
Nevertheless, standing in front of a large American flag, the Cobb resident urged her fellow Republicans to come together to kick Obama out of the White House.
“The people in this room have done their part through the years, but they’ve got to go one more time and help really get Georgia to do their part to get a man out of the White House that has no respect for that flag, I do not believe,” said Everhart to applause.
The few officials who spoke were careful not to delve too deeply into the present campaign for the nomination, which has divided Republicans across the country and could possibly lead to a brokered convention.
U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta said any of the four candidates running on the Republican side would be a better alternative to Obama.
“I’m sure there’s division among the group here today, different camps, and that’s understandable because I have my favorite,” said Gingrey, a Newt Gingrich supporter. “We have four darn good prospects.”
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson of east Cobb noted how far the party had come since holding the county convention in a Wheeler High School classroom in 1972, when there were only three Republican elected officials in the county.
“Whether we have to wait for Tampa or before, when we go to Tampa, let’s rally behind our nominee and our vice presidential that’s been selected,” said Isakson. “Let’s walk every corner, every street, make every phone call we have to because this election is for the future and prosperity of my children, my grandchildren and yours.”