The following speech was delievered by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle at the Georgia Chamber's 2017 Eggs and Issues event:
Thank you for that kind introduction – and thank you to the Georgia Chamber and Chris Clark for your leadership.
Let me also thank Governor Deal. I have had the privilege of seeing the governorship up close and I can assure you it is not for the weak of heart. The decisions are never easy and Gov. Deal – you have shown great courage and a steady hand of leadership. You are a wonderful man and a great governor.
We are blessed to be coming off another very successful year that is historic in many ways.
Four straight years as the number one state in which to do business. Another record year of job growth. A billion dollars of new road projects underway. A rainy day fund of more than $2 billion. A seaport we are deepening to support a new wave of large container ships, which – to put that in perspective, if the containers from these ships are unloaded onto rail cars, it would stretch 70 miles long. Imagine the economic opportunities this will provide to Georgia and the southeast.
Georgia continues to move forward as a dominant figure in the nation – while our neighboring states struggle with pension liabilities, budget shortfalls, poor infrastructure, and other issues that are holding them back.
Now is the time to push for an even greater Georgia. To do so – we must identify specific areas where we can improve: high poverty rates, failing schools, unaffordable health insurance and over regulation of small businesses.
Make no mistake, we should be optimistic. The opportunities waiting in our future are greater than ever before. But we must act to move beyond our most significant challenges so we can capitalize on our potential.
Every year, we all see the same heartbreaking statistics and national rankings.
We know that nearly 25% of our children and their families are living in poverty.
We know that about 14% of Georgians don’t have health care, ranking our uninsured among the highest levels in the nation. And for those who do have health insurance, the choices are too few and the costs are too high.
We know that despite all our efforts, our public schools are still failing thousands of our students.
Because of the combination of these factors, we know – that although Georgia is the number one state in which to do business – too many people, across too many of our communities feel far from number one.
While for many Georgians, the economy is strong – too few of our citizens are experiencing that prosperity. Far too many of our people see themselves on a treadmill… running faster and harder, only to see the prize getting further away from their reach.
We stand at a critical juncture.
To capitalize on our potential, we must build a bridge for economic growth that includes everyone who is willing to work for something better – understanding that there is dignity in all work.
As my grandfather use to say, all work that is honest work is good work. And all Georgians deserve to live with purpose. We must build an economy where hard work is rewarded.
I believe in our state’s potential because Georgia’s story is my story.
As a child of a single mom, I know what it’s like to live in a trailer. I know what it’s like to live in an apartment. And I know what it’s like to live in a house.
I know the challenges our children face because I have walked that path. And those challenges, more often, are outside the four walls of a classroom.
It is critical for us all to help meet these challenges by empowering communities and individuals to fill the cracks that hold our students back from achieving their full potential.
Our workforce requires it and our future demands it.
There is no question that many people would have once thought it impossible for me to become Lt. Governor. Just as today, there are those who doubt that the millions of children in our state can rise above the challenges they face… Just as there are those who would doubt that the state of Georgia can lead our nation in creating an unparalleled workforce.
Challenges are found every day, but so are opportunities. Addressing our challenges directly will free us to take advantage of opportunities we could never have imagined.
Georgia is ready to unleash a wave of economic growth – unlike anything we have ever seen.
History reminds us that Georgia’s fight to endure is much greater than the challenges that tempt us to surrender. We will not allow the past to define us. It only serves as a marker that will help us in shaping a brighter tomorrow.
We shouldn’t simply aspire to hold on to what we have – or to reclaim the past – but instead, we have to fight to push forward and claim a better future.
Our economy is no longer bound by bricks and mortar. All of us – including our government – must think in an entrepreneurial way.
It is up to us to revitalize and identify the next generation of leaders who will start the companies of tomorrow in every community of our state.
Georgia’s population is projected to grow by more than 4 million people over the next 15 years – that is nearly equivalent to dropping the entire state of South Carolina into our state. Our task now is to shape – it is to plan – and it is to define the growth of tomorrow.
We must grow traditional industries like manufacturing, health care, and agribusiness. But we will also embrace the new economy of technology companies…while expanding our venture capital. And above all, unleashing a new wave of small business growth that is of a magnitude unlike anything we have ever seen.
When we act, tomorrow’s economy will build its roots in Georgia. The reward will be higher salaries for hardworking men and women of our state, better health care at lower costs, renewed infrastructure and a public education system that leads our nation.
If we live up to our potential, I promise you that our citizens will have a quality of life that makes Georgia the envy of the world.
By combining education reform that brings true local control to our schools – and building a climate that allows job creators and entrepreneurs to thrive in communities statewide – we will drive a new kind of economic growth that sets us apart.
Don’t we all believe that our public schools should have no cracks for any student to fall through? It seems to me that Georgians can agree on this: We should lift the ceilings that are holding our children back from achieving their dreams. And it is incumbent upon us to give every opportunity for individuals to achieve a better life.
My desire has always been to bring excellence in education to every single student in Georgia because education is the great equalizer. It is what gives us the ability to impart the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in life.
In my book, Education Unleashed, I set a clear vision for how education is driving our economy. Our time is now. And I will not stop until all Georgians have access to the most dynamic public education system in the nation.
That means giving students new offerings at every level of their education with the understanding education must align with the needs of industry. We can no longer be disconnected to the realities of the future.
Our students need individualized learning plans. Our schools operate best under accountability contracts. Our communities must come together to create resource centers – bringing families, businesses, and partnerships together – so that we ensure no child goes without food, clean clothes, or the necessities they need to grow. And every high school student deserves the opportunity to earn an industry certification or an associate degree so they too can pursue a rewarding career.
And we can’t afford to send mixed messages that divide our communities or alienate our educators. The only way to accomplish this task is by having one guiding principle:
what is best for the student. Investing in education will create the rising tide that lifts all boats, even the boats that are anchored to poverty.Now is the time for us to declare war on unemployment and underemployment to get Georgia to work and to raise incomes for all our citizens – especially those who are most in need of opportunities for upward mobility.
Less regulation, fairer taxes, and a balanced tort system will allow our job creators to be more efficient, effective, and productive in growing our state’s economy – bringing more jobs and higher wages to our citizens.
Companies less than five years old are creating more than 80% of new jobs. We have to encourage more people to put forward the individual initiative required to turn their ideas, skills and experience into successful careers and new businesses.
One of my top priorities of this legislative session is a comprehensive regulatory reform taskforce that will make recommendations in reducing the unnecessary regulations that cost us jobs and make us less competitive in the marketplace.
We can lead the way to empowering our small businesses – which already make up more than 97% of our businesses – to create new jobs.
This year, I started a task force to replace the one-size-fits all health care policies that have produced higher costs, with little to show for them. By promoting high-quality, truly affordable, and doctor-patient focused choices – we will create a better healthcare system.
We stand in a unique place to help shape the future in healthcare with the repeal and replace of Obamacare with a new president and a seasoned professional in our next HHS secretary, Congressman Tom Price who knows Georgia. We can position our state to explore full flexibility with block grant funding in order to give patients better care at more affordable costs.
In closing, we are more than Republicans and Democrats. We are more than the sum of our pay checks and the jobs we have. We are more than where we grew up or who our parents are. Regardless of our circumstances – or the challenges we confront – we will always be connected by our shared values.
As we look forward, we should never fear change. We shouldn’t doubt our state’s potential or our resolve to succeed. Facing our biggest challenges – with courage – is what will define Georgia.
These are the moments that define us – that separate us – and the moments we must fully embrace as we write a new chapter in Georgia’s history. I am honored to serve you. Thank you and may god bless our great state.