More than 200 people turned out for the Dawson County Republican Partys most recent meeting. The unusually large draw could be attributed to the meetings special guest speaker, Gov. Nathan Deal.
The event was a collaboration of the Republican parties of Dawson, Forsyth and Lumpkin counties and the Dawson County Tea Party.
During his nearly 45-minute address last Tuesday night, Deal updated his constituents on the state of the state and some accomplishments of the past year.
The primary achievement he discussed was balancing the states budget without an increase in taxes.
One of the things we did is eliminated 14,000 positions in state government, he said.
He admitted that not all of those 14,000 positions were filled, but said, in order to fill those positions in the future, somebody with a department is going to have to come back and get legislative authorization in order to be able to fill them.
The temporary stability of the states budget is a plus for Deal, but he said his office is constantly looking for areas to improve efficiency. He singled out criminal justice and education as two examples.
It costs us about $18,000 a year to keep somebody in prison, he said. That is a lot of money. Weve come to a point in the states history where we have to decide who were mad at and who were scared of.
Georgia ranks 10th among states for overall population, but fourth in prison population, he said.
We need to lock the ones were scared of up and the ones were just mad at, weve got to figure out a better way to deal with [them], he said.
Deal plans to increase revenue for prison alternatives, such as drug and DUI courts.
Im going to be proposing in this years budget some new revenue to be used for creating accountability courts across our state, he said. These are [programs] where we can deal with these individuals under intense supervision that is much less expensive than [incarcerating] them.
We have the opportunity in this state to really turn our education system around, said Deal, whose wife is a former schoolteacher.
Deal said hed rather see a good teacher with a large classroom population than two poor teachers with small classroom enrollments.
We have to have principals who supervise their teachers, he said, and if theyve got a teacher that is not performing, in the most kind and gentle way possible, suggest that they should consider other employment.
Deal also touched briefly on the future of business around the state, especially as it relates to education. Part of the governors plan calls for the education system to better distribute students to fields where they are best suited.
He talked specifically about dual-enrollment programs and the opportunities such programs can provide students who do not thrive in a typical school environment. Dual-enrollment allows a student to take classes from a technical school or college while still enrolled in high school.
Dual-enrollment can help find out if a child has a particular aptitude and wants to pursue it, he said.
Deal left the largely conservative crowd with a message to continue the fight as the 2012 presidential election approaches.