In 2006, Casey Cagle became Georgia’s first Republican Lieutenant Governor, and was re-elected in 2010 and 2014. Now, he is seeking the state’s highest office, and he stopped by the Daily Tribune News recently to share some of his ideas about governing the state.
Cagle, a seventh generation Georgian, was born in Hall County, to a single mother, whom he credits with instilling the values of hard-work and honesty.
“I learned early on the challenges that single-parent families face,” he said.
After a leg injury derailed his dreams of playing college football, Cagle, then 20 years old, returned to Gainesville and married Nita, his high school sweetheart. The couple have three sons — Jared, Grant, and Carter — and a granddaughter, Everett Grace.
In 1994, the 28-year-old was elected the youngest state senator and served as chairman of the Finance Committee, vice chairman of Science and Technology and as a member of the appropriations and natural resources committees.
Since 2006, Cagle has held the post of Lt. Governor, a position he says has prepared him for the top spot.
“I had the great privilege of serving with two governors — Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal,” he said. It allowed me to see the governorship up close and personal.”
While serving as Lt. Gov. Cagle said he “focused his conservative principles to help make Georgia a place where businesses could grow and families could prosper.”
Among his accomplishments, Cagle said he supported the Charter Systems Act that improved education in Georgia while providing a path to career technical education for Georgia’s high school students. He also launched the Georgia College and Career Academy Network, a partnership between local community leaders, school systems and Georgia’s technical colleges to provide a relevant and rigorous curriculum aimed at preparing students for a highly skilled, 21st-Century economy upon graduation.
An avid triathlete, Cagle leads Healthy Kids Georgia, an effort to encourage local partnerships that introduce children to healthy lifestyle options. Under the slogan of “Be Fit. Be Healthy. Be You.,” the initiative helps acquaint children with ways to improve their health and wellness. Working together, local communities are beginning to stem the tide of childhood obesity in ways that are proven to increase academic achievement and reduce long-term healthcare costs.
Casey’s leadership has been recognized beyond the state of Georgia as well. After being named one of the 100 most influential Georgians, Casey was one of four public servants in the country to be honored by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools with the Champion for Charters Award.
“I’m not running against anyone,” he said. “I am absolutely focused on a very bold agenda for the State of Georgia.”
Cagle said one of his areas of focus is economic prosperity.
“We are going to grow by 4.5 million people in less than 15 years,” he said. “We have to build the infrastructure that we are going to need. That means being willing to go over, under or around in order to have the connectivity we will need as a state.”
But Cagle said the biggest issue Georgia faces is workforce development.
“Right now in Georgia, there are 150,000 job openings and 25 percent of those jobs require a four-year degree,” he said. “All the others need either an industry certification or a two-year or technical college degree. We have to make sure that education appropriately aligns with industry needs. It’s not a one size fits all education system like what we have now. We need to look towards Bartow County with the College and Career Academy and teach kids the career fields and many of those will be able to get their certification or degrees and go into the workforce.”
Cagle said almost 25 percent of Georgia children are living in poverty, but by creating an education system that gives them the needed skills, it will provide the springboard needed to escape poverty.
“That’s one of the reasons I am running for governor,” he said. “I was that kid. My dad left when I was 3 and my mom had to work two jobs just to make ends meet — she never took a dime of public assistance — and she instilled in me the values of hard work. I want to fight for those kids who are in poverty.”
You say you plan to cut taxes by $100 million in the first 100 days. How do you plan to do that?
I will raise the personal exemption to $3,000 for every household member, so say for a family of four, their first $12,000 of income would be tax exempt. The people on the lower end of the payscale will benefit to a greater degree. We are growing at a little less than a billion dollars a year in revenues. This tax cut represents only 10 or 12 percent of that growth, so we can satisfy that growth.
Bartow County has attracted quite a bit of industry in the last few years but we can always use more. On a regional scale, what more can be done to attract even more industry to Northwest Georgia and Bartow County in particular?
First of all, you need to pat yourselves on the back. Bartow County has made all the right steps. By opening the College and Career Academy and creating a stronger partnership with Chattahoochee Tech and having accessible infrastructure, it has positioned this community to be on everyone’s map. I think Bartow needs to work on building out that workforce. If industry has the ability to come to an area that has a steady flow of qualified people, then you are providing something other communities can’t deliver.
What are your thoughts about Georgia’s transportation future?
Everything must be weighed in a cost benefit analysis, but we definitely need a plan for our transportation future. Right now we are in a catch-up mode as was evidenced by the I-85 bridge collapse. Our infrastructure was built for about half the size of our population so our highest priority must be solving the downtown connector problem and also finding new corridors, whether we go under through a tunnel or over with double decking, but whatever we do we must first gather all the facts before we do anything.
Health care is on a lot of people’s minds. What do you see the state’s role in affordable health care?
Obamacare has been a failure with runaway costs, fewer choices and decreased access. The Health Care Reform Task Force seeks to identify any provisions of state law that may need to be changed, while developing conservative solutions to increase access to personalized health insurance across Georgia. Our top priorities are reducing costs and strengthening the doctor-patient relationship. Replacing Obamacare with a health insurance system that returns power to patients and doctors, takes a free market approach and is affordable for individuals and taxpayers is one of the greatest challenges facing our state.
The 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 6.