ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue visited both the House and Senate today to thank the members for their hard work and cooperation this session and over the previous seven years during his tenure as Governor. Today was the final day of the 2010 session of the General Assembly.
The House and Senate passed major legislation this year supported by Governor Perdue including a historic water conservation measure passed earlier in the session. Last week, a regional transportation funding plan based on Governor Perdue's original proposal was passed by both chambers. A school board governance bill first proposed by the Governor last year received final passage last week as well. The legislature also passed an income tax cut for Georgia's seniors that the Governor championed during his successful 2006 re-election campaign. Both chambers also voted to eliminate the state portion of homeowners' property taxes, an idea proposed by Governor Perdue during his 2008 State of the State address.
Two additional bills that were in the Governor's legislative package also received final passage. A bill to give the Georgia Bureau of Investigation power to investigate mortgage fraud received favorable consideration from the General Assembly. The Nurse Practice Act which allows greater flexibility in who can provide home-based care was also approved.
The full text of Governor Perdue's address to the House and Senate is below:
Well, congratulations on a very productive session. It seems like it was almost a lifetime ago … but to be exact, it was 106 days ago … that I stood before you and asked you to work with me to do the hard things now for a better tomorrow in Georgia. That was the charge … that was the challenge … that was the call.
Then, and in many conversations since, we have talked about putting aside political and provincial differences and coming together for the good of our state. And we have done that.
You passed a historic water conservation measure, a transportation plan that will drive Georgia's future growth, and an ethics bill that builds on what we passed back in 2005 and provides even more transparency and broadens the powers of the Ethics Commission.
And when faced with a financial situation unlike any Georgian has seen in generations, you passed a budget filled with the tough choices necessary to protect our core mission.
It hasn't been easy, but I am reminded of the Parable of the talents, in which three servants are given 1, 5 and 10 talents. The message is clear, the rewards for good stewardship do not change no matter how many talents are entrusted to us.
I believe we have been good stewards, we have accomplished important work on behalf of Georgians and we have done it together with input and support from members on both sides of the aisle.
Some may be surprised by that, but I am not. I have learned over my years here at the state Capitol that while we sometimes disagree on how to get there, we all want a better Georgia for tomorrow.
On the most important issues facing Georgia, we have a history of coming together. We fought to protect private property rights and we have supported our soldiers deployed overseas and their families back here in Georgia. When Hurricane Katrina devastated our neighboring states, we cared for those who no longer had homes … who no longer had incomes … who no longer had hope.
Over the last eight sessions we have placed a priority on funding education, and it is now a larger percentage of the state budget than ever before. We put graduation coaches in every middle and high school, and watched graduation rates soar to the highest levels in state history.
Together we protected lottery funds, and as a result we saw the millionth student receive the HOPE scholarship in 2007, and the millionth child enroll in Pre-K in February of this year.
Together we bent the cost curve in healthcare, reducing the yearly increase in Medicaid expenses from double digits to less than five percent. Those efforts have saved Georgia taxpayers more than a billion dollars each year for the past five years now. Just think what our budget deficit would have been had we not made those difficult choices.
We joined efforts to lobby Washington to ensure that Peachcare is funded and designed in a way that actually helps our kids.
Together we have maintained Georgia's long history of conservative fiscal management. We continue to stand in a select group of states with a Triple-A bond rating, which has saved more than $100 million in debt service.
Together we have made Georgia a state where companies want to invest in their future and ours. Fortune 500 companies NCR and Newell Rubbermaid could have chosen anywhere in the world for their Headquarters, and they chose Georgia. When Kia looked for a talented workforce and a fertile business environment, they chose West Point for their first U.S. manufacturing plant and brought more than 6,000 jobs to West Georgia.
And together we have set our sights on becoming the best managed state in the nation. Those of you who know me best know how passionate I am about this effort. For me, this is really about ensuring Georgians are getting value from their tax dollar. Our efforts have resulted in Georgia being graded the best managed state in the Southeast, and among the best in the nation.
We can argue all day long about how much we should collect from our citizens, but we should never have to argue about whether or not we should spend what we collect wisely.
That's why we have placed a focus on customer service that is receiving national attention. That's why we hired agency heads with expertise in their field rather than political connections. And friends, state government today works better for Georgians, even with fewer employees. In fact, you have to go back to 2000 to find a state workforce this lean and, at that time, they were serving 1.7 million fewer people.
Team Georgia is working smarter and harder than ever and they are delivering. Customer service is the mantra and government is faster, friendlier and easier.
I came to this job with the perspective of someone who has sat in your seat. For some of you, Atlanta is a long way from home … but for all of you … the duty you have taken on here requires hard work and real sacrifice.
I know about the committee meetings that pop up at the last minute and force you to choose between career and public service … I understand the difficulty of balancing the needs of your family and the needs of your constituents.
There is no question that these are tough times; no other administration in Georgia's history has had to deal with economic downturns like we've seen at the beginning and end of our years. But as it says in Proverbs, "iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Georgia will be more prepared to lead the nation in economic recovery because we have worked together ... encouraging each other ... putting our state ahead of ourselves.
I want to thank each and every one of you for supporting me, at one point or another, during my time in office. I'd like to especially thank those of you who served as floor leaders, and I am so proud to see so many of you progressing into leadership positions. You carried some heavy loads for my team and your commitment to this administration is appreciated.
Again, thank you for your service, for your support, and most of all, for your friendship. God bless you and may God bless the great state of Georgia!