Mike Klein Online

Karen Handel: Enact Performance Pay for State Government Employees

A rejuvenated and re-energized Karen Handel said Friday that all state government employees should be subject to pay-for-performance standards.  Her comment created applause when Handel addressed a Pocketbook Politics luncheon at Kilpatrick Stockton in midtown Atlanta.  The luncheon was a rare public appearance for Handel since she barely lost the Republican nomination for governor to Nathan Deal.

Handel was replying to an education question when she said, “I think a performance based approach for teachers is appropriate…  People should be judged on how they do their job… The private sector does it.  If the private sector can get to it, we could get to it…  And I’ll tell you this, if it’s good for teachers, it ought to be good for all the state employees.”

Handel also told 75 luncheon guests the state should make certain that programs created with Race to the Top education grant dollars do not become an unfunded mandate.   Race to the Top is a federal grant program that will provide $400 million to Georgia in four equal installments that begin this year.

“Let’s make sure that we don’t put in place programs that are ongoing expenditures to the budget that are being funded by one-time dollars,” Handel said.  “If you do that, then all of a sudden two, three years down the road, when the Race to the top Dollars are gone, you have a big hole and how are you going to fill that?” Handel is a strong advocate for charter schools.

Handel admitted to being “amused” that a large contingent of Atlanta media were in the room.   She endorsed the Republican Party ticket, without ever once mentioning Nathan Deal by name, and Handel made clear she strongly believes former Governor Roy Barnes would be an unacceptable choice.

She took a swipe at Barnes, asking, “Who do you want making the judicial appointments in this state?  What if a vacancy opens up on the Georgia Supreme Court?  Who do you want making that appointment?  And, heaven forbid, what if something should happen to one of our fine U.S. senators?  Who do you want making that appointment?”

Handel did no media interviews and she left through a side entrance that enabled her to avoid the clutch of reporters waiting near the main elevator.   She did take audience questions.  One of those questions referred to the Georgia Tax Reform Council that is working on writing a new revenue plan.

Handel commended the Council for seeking local opinion.  She supports moving toward consumption-based taxes and less reliance on business and income taxes revenue.  “I would hope that’s a direction that they would go.  But remember folks, that’s just a first step.  The real heavy lifting will be convincing to the people of this state.”  She added, “It’s important to show people what they will be getting.”

Handel has avoided public spotlight since her August primary run-off defeat.   “I have transitioned from ‘Bring It On!’ to ‘Live a Little, Love a Lot and Have Some Fun!’  And I’ll tell you, I recommend it for each and every one of you from time to time.  What you’re going to find is it’s going to leave you rejuvenated, re-energized and absolutely ready to take on whatever is next with even greater determination.”

Karen Handel has exited the stage for now, but it sounds like she won’t be gone for long.

Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

October 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tri-State Water War: Deal Dings Florida, Barnes Suggests Down Under

Not surprisingly, business themes dominated the conversation when gubernatorial candidates Roy Barnes and Nathan Deal addressed a sold-out luncheon audience Wednesday at The Commerce Club in downtown Atlanta.  This article will focus on discussion of the tri-state water wars.  Later articles will discuss their comments on education, transportation and health care.

There was also a touch of humor Wednesday when moderator Jeff Hullinger asked the candidates how to help Georgia Bulldogs football coach Mark Richt.  But more on that later.

Georgia, Alabama and Florida are at odds over water that flows through Georgia to the two other states.  The issue has been in litigation for several years and in dispute for decades.  Currently, the three states are under a federal court order to resolve their water war within two years or the issue will be settled in Congress.  A federal judge has ruled that Atlanta cannot use Lake Lanier as its water supply and that is the central part of what this argument is all about.

Deal, who served nine terms as a Republican congressman, said Georgia’s water crisis is not likely to be favorably solved in Washington until governors in the three states demonstrate they can create the solution.  With an eye on Florida participation in water talks, Deal said, “Quite frankly, I don’t think they have been very engaged in the process.”

Deal has proposed construction of four or perhaps five new reservoirs across north Georgia,  dredging Lake Lanier which has lost about 18% capacity due to silt, new investment to repair aging water systems, continuation of new conservation measures and returning more treated water to river basins.

“In the short term Georgia needs to do everything we can,” Deal said.  “The starting point was conservation legislation the General Assembly passed this year.  If we’ve done these things and time runs out on us, and we have to go back to the court and ask for either an extension or an alternative ruling on the original issue, we’ve at least shown clean hands, we’ve done what we can do in the time frame we’ve been given.  It is a multiple approach that we have to take.”

Barnes, the former Democratic governor who wants his old job back,  said, “We don’t have anything to negotiate with.  What are we going to give up?  We’ve lost the case.  This idea that, you know, all the governors  are going to hold hands and sing kumbayah and its going to be settled, it’s fantasy.   We have to show, before this matter is ever resolved, we have to show that we can solve it ourselves without having to beg Florida or Alabama.”

During his first administration that ended in January 2003 Barnes proposed creation and funding for 17 reservoirs positioned across north and west Georgia.  That plan did not go forward under Governor Sonny Perdue.   Barnes said aging water systems lose between 15% and 40% due to leaks.  Rebuilding local water systems will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and process will be lengthy, many years.  He believes it is partially, a state responsibility and Barnes says this project is too large for communities to go it alone.

Like Deal, Barnes proposed expansion of existing reservoirs.  The former governor described himself as “intrigued” by underground water storage, similar to how Florida stores fresh water.  He said expanding aquifers likely would not require the same federal approval process that is associated with new reservoir construction.

On a lighter note, moderator Jeff Hullinger closed the luncheon by asking both candidates if they had any advice for UGA football coach Mark Richt.  Only Barnes answered, and with his own question:  “Is Vince Dooley still alive?”

Mike Klein writes about contemporary issues as Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Barnes, Deal Education Agendas Should Emphasize Online Learning

Education agendas proposed by Georgia’s two major candidates for Governor leave wide open a hole that any running back would appreciate.  Nathan Deal and Roy Barnes put forward plans that give only slight mention to online education.  That misses a significant education priority for Georgia children.

Georgia’s candidates have the opportunity to take a bold step.  They could declare Georgia will become a national leader in online education offered by the Department of Education.  They could say every high school student will participate in at least one online course each semester.  They could say it will happen within their first term.  Georgia is a long way from being able to provide those resources, but Georgia can get there.  One of them could make it happen. Continue reading

September 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roy to Nathan to Karen … Who’s Gonna Put Us Back to Work?

Georgians can safely bet the farm their next governor will say he or she can put Georgians back to work.

One candidate is a former governor.  One was investigated for allegedly trying to influence lucrative deals that would directly benefit him and a business associate.  One is Georgia’s former secretary of state who proved a strong woman really can break through the glass ceiling without going to college.

Democratic nominee Roy Barnes is a multi-millionaire trial attorney.  He served a single four-year term as governor but his reign ended when Barnes was upset during his 2002 re-election bid.  The governor alienated teachers during his tenure but now Barnes is campaigning as their friend.   Barnes is a fiscal conservative who is media savvy, a masterful speaker and he has the state’s largest war chest. Continue reading

July 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment