ATLANTA — Gov. Nathan Deal has done a poor job in economic-development marketing, Democratic challenger Jason Carter told a group of corporate executives Wednesday.
“Georgia has every ingredient that it needs to be a powerhouse,” he said. “It has become that in certain ways, but it also just feels like we’re not putting those ingredients together in a way that makes sense.”
Carter, a DeKalb legislator, also vowed to increase state funding in transportation, venture capital and sweeten tax breaks for businesses. These are on top of his central theme of increasing spending for education and coming up with the money to expand eligibility for Medicaid to more people.
He repeated that he can do all of these without a tax increase.
A Deal spokeswoman later dismissed Carter’s comments as hollow campaign rhetoric.
Carter made his comments during a luncheon for subscribers of Atlanta Trend which is made up of senior corporate executives. Deal spoke to the same group in February.
In his speech, Carter launched a head-on attack of Deal’s main campaign platform in which the governor trumpets the rankings of three unconnected media outlets calling Georgia the No. 1 place to do business. The challenger pointed to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau showing that the average Georgia family is earning $6,000 less, after inflation, than a decade ago and that the state has the worst unemployment rate in the country.
“The thing that is happening now in terms of economic development is a single-ingredient recipe that says you can get one-off, negotiated tax breaks for people who are willing to come with a big factory,” he said. “What that means is we’re developing jobs at the lower wages. We’re not driving the kind of knowledge-workforce that we want, and we’re not having a broad enough view of what economic development should look like from the state up.”
His main prescription is increased taxpayer funds for public schools. He also called for reviewing existing, industry-specific tax breaks for their effectiveness while expanding others, such as making the research-and-development tax credit transferable as Deal did for the movie industry.
Deal campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Talaber wasn’t impressed by Carter’s leadership on the issue.
“Under Gov. Deal’s leadership, Georgia is now ranked third in the country for feature-film production,” she said. “The governor has a strong, pro-growth record, and I’m sure he is flattered by Senator Carter’s praise.”
Additionally, Carter would invest teacher pensions in start-up companies, something the governor opposes.
Boosting spending on transportation, Carter said, would be a priority because of its economic benefits.
“The fact of the matter is it requires investment, and that money can only come from two places: either inside the budget or outside the budget,” he said.
Instead of a tax increase, he said he would partner with private companies to build toll roads to address traffic congestion.
“Another brave statement by Senator Carter,” Deal’s Talaber said. “The governor agrees with his assessment that transportation ‘requires investment.’ That’s why he’s prioritized and funded major transportation projects such as the Northwest Corridor, the managed lanes on I-75 Southbound (in Atlanta) and the deepening of the Port of Savannah. He will continue to build on these investments in his second term.”
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