ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Karen Handel signs have hardly disappeared and here is Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle campaigning in North Fulton, beating the drums for his own candidacy for governor in November.
But Cagle was never one let the grass grow under his feet. He has hit North Fulton running hard. He stopped by Appen Media Group June 29 to talk up his campaign before moving on to a talk with business leaders.
In this campaign Cagle is all business. Bringing new jobs and building and rebuilding the state’s infrastructure are the linchpins of his campaign.
Serving three terms as lieutenant governor, Cagle has positioned himself to be the early frontrunner. Sitting down with Appen Media Group to talk about his campaign, he is coming out swinging. And his first punch is for job creation.
He says he has a plan to bring 500,000 new jobs to Georgia in his first term.
He has a “big, bold vision” for Georgia. He wants to build on Georgia’s No.1 ranking as The Best State to do Business for the fourth year running.
To do that, Georgia must invest in its infrastructure, he said.
“You look at the growth that is predicted for Georgia. Over the next 15 years, the state will have 4.5 million new residents,” Cagle said.
“More infrastructure will be needed. To meet that need we will need $1 billion for our roads and bridges,” he said. “I want to bring in state agencies for a 10-year strategic plan that looks beyond maintenance and build the infrastructure of tomorrow.”
That means embracing innovation. It means not only ranking existing infrastructure priorities but identifying “new corridors and infrastructure needs” for economic growth in the state.
He wants to bring broadband to the hinterlands of Georgia. His rural broadband initiative will expand access to the internet for Georgians to spur more economic development in the poorer areas.
Georgia must be aggressive in workforce development and education.
“We have the ability and the opportunity to build a workforce second to none,” Cagle said. “To do that, we must align our education system to industries’ needs.”
By that Cagle meant embracing technical school degrees and the journeyman tradition. The best place to learn a job is on the job, he said.
“We need to abandon the one-size-fits-all model for education where we send them off for a four-year degree at college,” he said. “We need to be more in line with the Gwinnett Technical College System.”
Tech schools fill needed high-paying, skilled technical jobs. Often this means spending some time in class and some time on the job.
“It is the German methodology. And it works. Put kids on a career path and watch them excel,” he said.
Cagle wants to expand the three-year high school apprenticeship programs throughout the state. The way to entice a dropout to finish high school is to wave a good job in front of him or her.
“Show them they can earn while they learn and see what happens,” Cagle said. “Coming out of high school with an industrial certificate or associate degree is the difference in making $16,000 a year out of high school and $32,000.”
But education begins by creating readers. He wants every third-grader reading at grade level or better. Without the most basic learning skill we can’t expect young people to succeed, he said.
To aid in that goal, Cagle said his Georgia College and Career Academy Network works toward that. The academy is a partnership among community leaders, school systems and the state’s technical schools dedicated to preparing young people for the workforce.
Also eye-catching is Cagle’s pledge to cut taxes by $100 million. He says he can do it because Georgia’s economy is expanding by $1 billion a year.
He figures to return 10 percent of that to the taxpayers. He will raise personal deductions so that the first $12,000 of a family of four’s income is free of state tax.
“This is obtainable. But we must run government in the most efficient and effective way,” he said. “I have the conservative credentials to do it.”
It was not surprising that Cagle, 51, announced his bid for the governor’s mansion earlier this year. He was elected in 1994 the youngest state senator at 28 by his constituents and served five terms. In 2006, Cagle was elected the state’s first Republican lieutenant governor.
He is in his third term.