Tuesday's guest on the “Mornings unPHILtered” show was United States Congressman Nathan Deal, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor. Deal was in town to speak with various groups of Bulloch Countians about his campaign.
While Deal represents the 9th Congressional District in north Georgia, he has family scattered throughout Bulloch County and the surrounding area. Deal, who has served in the United States Army, as an assistant district attorney, as a family court judge, and then in the Georgia Legislature, said he is one of the 10 most conservative members of Congress.
Deal told host Phil Boyum he introduced, again, his Financial Responsibility Act bill in Congress, which he's introduced each session since 2004. The bill would require a 5-percent annual reduction in congressional pay until the Congress had actually balanced the budget. Not surprisingly, Deal admitted that he hasn't received much support for the bill.
Deal said without a balanced budget act, Congress just keeps passing bills trying to buy the nation's way out of an economic recession - an idea he said is out of sync with mainstream America.
Like most states, Georgia has a balanced budget requirement, and Deal said that requirement is forcing the state to make a lot of tough budgetary decisions.
Deal said people would like for health care to be straightened out, but he said that up until now, President Obama has wanted to talk about nothing but his own health plan. He said, in his experience, the majority of Americans are looking for some kind of health care reform but what scares people the most about the president's plan is that the government would be running the program.
Boyum asked Deal about the announcement that President Obama wants to use federal loan guarantees to fund two nuclear reactor power plants to be built by the Southern Company in Georgia's Burke County. Deal agrees that nuclear power needs to be part of meeting our energy demands. However, the real problem, he said, is all the regulatory issues that delay the slow down the approval process and the construction of these plants.
Asked by the host about moving from the national office he holds to the state level, Deal said he is the only candidate who has experience at the local, state and federal levels.
Deal said he would really like to go to zero-based budgeting, where every request for funds would be considered on its own merits. If that happened, his list of priorities would be public safety, then public education, and then public transportation.
Deal, whose district includes the Lake Lanier area, said Georgia must build more water reservoirs before the state even considers implementing inter-basin water transfers. Asked how they would be paid for, Deal said using state-backed loans, such as the kind offered by the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA), has been the way to pay for these projects in the past, and should be used to pay for these improvements. Deal also stressed that the reservoirs should not be owned by the state, but should be owned and operated by the counties in which they reside.
In response to an e-mail question about increasing the cigarette tax, Deal said increasing the revenue taxes is not the way to raise more money. Citing the state of Arkansas as an example, he said quite often the move ends up reducing state revenue, as customers simply go elsewhere to buy their cigarettes.
Boyum asked Deal how education can be improved in Georgia without throwing additional monies at the problem. Deal said both of his parents and his wife were educators, so education in Georgia is “near and dear to his heart.” He said there are many new innovations being made inside the public schools, adding that legislators must remove the regulatory burdens on public school districts and school boards.
School boards need to be able to spend the money where it's needed, the congressman said. One of the ideas gaining acceptance is creating more public charter schools, which offer an alternative method of instruction to students, while often costing less money per student to operate. Another idea is to do away with a lot of testing and let the teacher test when he or she feels the students are ready.
“Mornings unPHILtered” airs live Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on statesboroherald.com and also simulcast on WWNS-AM 1240 on the radio. You also can listen anytime at BoroLive.com on statesboroherald.com