On Jan. 9, we reconvened for the first session of the 154th Georgia General Assembly. This year promises to be very busy and offers endless opportunities. I am honored to represent you in the Senate and motivated to serve you at the Capitol in 2017.
I continue to serve as Vice-Chair of the Transportation Committee and will serve this year as Secretary of the Appropriations Committee. Additionally, I will serve on the Finance and Regulated Industries and Utilities Committees and as Ex-Officio on the Rules Committee. My election as Majority Whip by the Senate Majority remains and I will work hard to keep caucus members informed and educated about legislation. I am humbled to serve in this role and will take it seriously. It is important that the Senate Majority Caucus fully knows and understands how certain pieces of legislation will affect Georgians.
Governor Nathan Deal confidently set his agenda in the State of the State Address during a joint session held on Wednesday, January 11. He took us down memory lane and reminded us that when he entered office in 2011 businesses were going bankrupt, homes were being foreclosed upon and jobs were being lost, the unemployment rate was 10.4 percent, and the state's rainy day fund was extremely low at $116 million. In his address, his update on the state's economic and financial progress shows how far we have come. The unemployment rate has dropped to 5.3 percent, the state's rainy day fund has increased to approximately $2.033 billion, and new records in trade, film production and tourism have been set.
Gov. Deal's announcement in September 2016 to increase state-level law enforcement pay by 20 percent has led to more trooper applications than any other year. Along with law enforcement pay raises, Gov. Deal addressed his new proposal to increase the pay by 19 percent for DFCS caseworkers. Gov. Deal wants to ensure a competitive salary for those who fill vital roles and wants to retain the best possible candidates to look after our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.
Healthcare is another priority Gov. Deal addressed. He will work with members of the legislature to enhance Medicaid and State Health Benefit Plan for treatments of those diagnosed with autism up to the age of 21. Gov. Deal also proposed his new budget of $2.5 million dollars which will cover the full child population of Medicaid and Peachcare for those children with behavioral and mental health issues.
Overall, we have a busy session ahead of us as we push Majority Caucus priorities to fruition and work on the Governor's proposals to make our state outstanding.
Thank you to all of my constituents for your involvement and constant care for the 51st District of Georgia. You inspire me to continue fighting for our great state and the "American Dream." Please call or email me with any questions, comments or concerns you have and I look forward to hearing from you.
Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.