ALBANY, Ga. — Georgia Governor Nathan Deal told Rotarians Wednesday that the state continues to rebound from a tough economic recession thanks in part to tax reform and a shrinking government.
Deal stopped in Albany for a luncheon as part of a two-day, statewide tour that has the governor speaking to audiences in at least six Georgia cities before heading back to Atlanta.
Deal credited tax reforms approved by the Georgia General Assembly this year and executive orders he's signed creating new programs like the Georgia Competitiveness Initiative, as the mechanisms that are making "the state more appealing" to corporations looking to expand or move into the state.
Speaking specifically of the General Assembly's repeal of the state's sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, Deal said that move will entice more manufacturers to relocate to Georgia or expand existing operations.
"It will make us much more competitive with the many states that are competing with us to try and bring jobs into the state. Many of them do not have that tax in the first place," Deal said.
The governor pointed specifically to a recent decision by Caterpillar to relocate a plant from Japan to Athens as proof that Georgia's economic picture is turning around, saying "we not only managed to recruit them from another state, but got them to move from another developed nation."
"We worked across party lines and put their differences aside and, I think, passed some legislation that will benefit the state for a long time to come," Deal said.
The governor also pointed to "historic reforms" of the justice system.
"The reason for that is pretty obvious," Deal said. "The most recent statistic, I'm told, is that one out of every 13 Georgians right now is under some kind of corrections supervision. ... We have the fourth-largest prison population in the country even though we're only the 10th-largest state. It's costing us $1.2 billion per year."
Deal said the Department of Corrections wasn't "producing the kind of results we all expect," and that it needed to be reformed.
The governor said that reforming the Department of Corrections will allow for those people deemed dangerous to the community to be locked away while allowing those suffering from substance abuse or mental illness to get the help they need.
Deal also spoke of the importance of the harbor-deepening project in Savannah and urged those in attendance "to call anyone you know in the federal government" to make sure they're ready to pay their 60 percent share of the cost of that project.
After leaving Albany, Deal went to Warner Robins before heading to Columbus and Fort Benning, where he signed legislation to help the children of veterans who attend schools in Georgia.