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The Democratic response to Deal’s final State of the State

House Minority Leader Bob Trammell was tapped to deliver the Democratic response to Gov. Nathan Deal’s final State of the State speech.

Trammell focused his address on a call to expand Medicaid, raise the state’s minimum wage and launch a needs-based HOPE scholarship for Georgia’s neediest students. 

“These key proposals are just the beginning in ensuring that the values we hold are reflected in the policies that we promote here at the Capitol,” said Trammell, a Luthersville attorney.

Here’s his full address:

Good evening.  I’m Bob Trammell, and I am the Democratic Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives.

I am proud to live in Georgia and to serve with colleagues who all share my deep love of this wonderful state. When Georgia succeeds, we all, whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent, celebrate that success. And Georgia has certainly enjoyed success: the state has been recognized as the number one state in which to do business for five consecutive years; Georgia has led the country on the issue of Criminal Justice Reform and accountability courts; we have a vibrant technical college system and university system in our State. And I want to take a moment to thank Governor Deal for his role and leadership in these successes and thank him for his long career of public service to our State.

But being named the number one state in which to do business for five consecutive years is not what makes Georgia such a special place. The best part about Georgia is simple and straightforward : its people. That’s what makes our state so special. 

Georgia is a state where we care about each other, where we look after each other, where we work together to uplift all of our neighbors. When we are at our best, it is a State where we give all of our citizens an equal opportunity to succeed by ensuring that they have access to basic healthcare. It is a State where we develop future leaders by offering quality public education, and it is a State where our citizens are able to build a secure future and provide for their families.

Unfortunately, these ideals are not always reflected in our policies. Too many of our neighbors have been left behind. 

Today, too many Georgians lack the fundamental ability to go to the doctor. Georgia has the fifth highest uninsured rate in the country. 1.2 million uninsured Georgians. If you live in a rural zip code, the state of health care is even more precarious. Six rural hospitals have closed since 2013. Another 5 rural hospitals are struggling to keep the doors open. Over half of the state’s rural hospitals are financially vulnerable. To make matters worse, the uninsured rate will be 25 percent by 2026 according to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. And because of the impending reduction in the Disproportionate Share Payments to hospitals this year and beyond, the rural health care crisis is set to get far worse.

Fortunately, there is a straightforward solution readily available to help Georgia tackle these problems. Medicaid Expansion. This simple remedy would provide half a million Georgians with coverage, cutting our uninsured rate in half. Medicaid expansion represents a $3 billion annual investment of federal dollars into Georgia and its people. The state of our rural hospitals would also be markedly improved through this desperately needed infusion of dollars. The reality is that Georgia is already paying for Medicaid expansion in 32 other states like Kentucky, Ohio, and California, instead of providing for its own citizens. It’s time to act. It is time to expand Medicaid here in Georgia. 

As a State, we also want to develop our future talent by offering quality public education. Each child in Georgia, regardless of their zip code, should have the opportunity to succeed in college, career, and life. Too many communities do not have the resources to allow for these opportunities. The time has come for us as a State to support the next generation of Georgians starting with our public schools. Our schools should serve as centers for thriving families and strong communities. They cannot rise to this level without increasing and fully funding the Quality Basic Education formula. QBE has never been fully funded, and doing so is a necessary first step in building the foundation for Georgia’s future.

We Georgians know that we are home to some of the finest universities and colleges in the country. HOPE has opened doors for many of our students, but there are many other deserving students trying to pursue their education who cannot afford to do so. 

For a quarter of Georgia families, the real price of college is more than half of their average annual income. Georgia is one of only two states in the country that does not offer state aid programs weighted to financial need. Middle and high-income students are much more likely to qualify for full tuition aid through HOPE than lower-income students.

That’s why it is time for a need-based expansion to HOPE and tuition-free technical college for all of our students in all degree paths.

Georgians also need jobs and wages that allow them to build a secure future for themselves and their families. Too many Georgians are working harder for an increasingly uncertain future. In today’s economy, many Georgians are working paycheck to paycheck. Accounting for inflation, Georgia families brought home nearly $5,000 less in annual income in 2015 than in 2007. The issue of wage stagnation is all too real for many Georgians. 

Raising the minimum wage helps families support themselves to build a more sustainable, thriving community.

These key proposals are just the beginning in ensuring that the values we hold are reflected in the policies that we promote here at the Capitol. As the father of two girls age 5 and age 3, with a baby boy on the way in March, not a day goes by that I don’t think about the future I want my kids to have. Good health, good schools, and good career and job opportunities to support their families. The question for us as Georgians is the same question. What kind of State do we want our kids to grow up in? Georgia’s future depends on our commitment to work together as policy-makers and citizens to move this state forward on the priorities that impact people the most. Keeping our citizens healthy, educating and developing both the students of today and the students of tomorrow, and ensuring economic prosperity for all Georgians. 

Together, we can help Georgia reach its full potential. 

Thank you. God bless you and your families. And God Bless the Great State of Georgia. 


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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.