Did Nathan Deal just endorse a $1 billion floor for transportation funding bill?

In an interview with WSB Radio's Erick Erickson last night, Gov. Nathan Deal appeared to endorse a floor of $1 billion in new revenue in the transportation bill now pending in a House committee.

Said Deal:

"If we go through this entire exercise and we come out of it with less money than we already know we need just to maintain what we have, I’m not sure the exercise is worth it. If there’s ever a time in this state where the people are cognizant of the transportation needs that Georgia faces, it's now."

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House Transportation Chairman Jay Roberts had a ready retort for the Washington anti-tax forces who have sounded the warning on his bid to raise more revenue for infrastructure.

From our AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin's story on yesterday's committee hearing:

The bill has garnered plenty of opposition, from cities, environmentalists and tea party activists. It also has been labeled a tax increase by Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform, a powerful right-leaning think tank. Roberts, however, said that group’s leader, Grover Norquist, ought to mind his own business.

Norquist “isn’t from Georgia,” Roberts said. “And until he fixes Washington, I don’t want to hear from him. I don’t care what he says.”

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Speaking of the latest iteration of the House transportation funding bill, which was unveiled on Thursday -- here's your copy:

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Gov. Nathan Deal wants Democrats and Republicans alike on alert: If you plan on voting "no" on his school takeover proposal, you better have a counteroffer in mind.

What follows is his response when asked about his argument on conservatives wary that his constitutional amendment gives the state too much authority. (We have a longer version of a story over the battle lines being drawn over at our premium site.)

Said Deal:

"The reality is the state cannot take over all of the failing schools. We’re going to take the ones we feel are most appropriate to be dealt with on the front-end of the system and then work with those in the classification of failing schools but not in the takeover category.

"I’ll say the same thing to Republicans that I'd say to Democrats: What's your idea? If you have no idea, you're saying your satisfied with having failing schools in Georgia. And that is not acceptable to me. And I don't think it should be acceptable to any member of the General Assembly.

"We’re trying to make our state better, to help our children who are looking to us because we are the primary funding source for education. They are looking to us to give them a chance."

Later on, in that aforementioned interview with WSB's Erickson, Deal said the program would "cherry pick" the worst of the worst schools.

"It’s a moral issue. We know that a child in a failing school is likewise more likely to fail," said Deal, adding: "Is it tough to do politically, absolutely. But I learned a long time ago if you’re going to be in politics, to do something you have to take on the hard things. And this is one of the hard things.”

As to how he will convince critics who hold the sanctity of local control of education as a paramount concern, here's what he said:

"If you are three years an 'F' school and you have not shown any progress in that regard, then I think something is wrong. I don't think anybody would say that you would sacrifice the future of children at the stake of having local control. And I think people expect better than that."

The plan would require a school to exit from state supervision after 10 years. What if, Erickson asked, the school's problems still linger even then?

"If you haven't been able to turn it around in 10 years, there are some very deeply-seeded problems in the school system," answered Deal. "I don't think that will happen, actually."

(Erickson, we should add, noted that Deal got very emotional during the interview. "You become John Boehner," he told the governor.)

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The U.S. Senate voted 93-5 on Thursday to confirm Ashton Carter as Secretary of Defense. Among the yeas were both of Georgia's Republicans, Johnny Isakson and David Perdue.

Said Isakson:

"I am encouraged that Dr. Carter has shown independent judgment and a willingness not to be a rubber stamp for the White House as we continue our mission to combat terrorists around the globe."

Said Perdue:

"As Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Dr. Carter successfully implemented new technologies and resources needed to maintain our military readiness, while applying appropriate oversight to help save the Defense Department billions of dollars. ... I am confident that Dr. Carter will continue to propel the Pentagon to work more efficiently and effectively, while protecting our long-term national security interests at home and around the world.”

A vote on President Barack Obama's other big cabinet nominee will have to wait. The Senate delayed even a committee vote on attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch until sometime after next week's recess.

Perdue has already said he will oppose Lynch. When we asked Isakson about Lynch on Thursday, he replied "I'm still taking that under consideration."

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U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson was on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews last night to discuss President Barack Obama’s war powers request. It’s fair to say Isakson wants something more assertive. You’ll catch him in the last three minutes here:

Said Isakson:

“The president has demonstrated less than the necessary appetite, in my opinion, to go after ISIL. I think this resolution is going to protract what’s gone on in that part of the world. The American people are tired of seeing young folks like Ms. Mueller murdered, like the pilot from Jordan burned, and beheadings.

“You can’t negotiate or use diplomacy with people that will kill you that way. You’ve got to kill them in return. We need a commitment to do exactly what the president says he wants to do – and that is destroy ISIL. And the only way you do that is with military action.”

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We told you earlier that the only religious liberty bill that has yet been filed – H.B. 218 by state Rep. Sam Teasley – has a date with the House Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs.

Willard is the No. 2 signer on H.B. 323, which would ban discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

What we didn’t tell you is that seven Republicans have signed onto both bills: Steve Tarvin of Chickamauga; Mike Dudgeon of Johns Creek; Emory Dunahoo of Gainesville; Matt Dollar of Cobb County; Valerie Clark of Lawrenceville; Joyce Chandler of Grayson; and Ben Harbin of Evans.

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We have more details of Monday’s visit to Atlanta by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican and possible 2016 presidential contender.

Paul will be expounding on his “Build America” message at a 5 p.m. Buckhead Club gathering of small business leaders. The event is being hosted by Ashley Bell, the former Hall County commissioner and current radio host; Julianne Thompson, the conservative activist; and state Rep. John Pezold of Fortson.

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The U.S. Department of Transportation is sending about $1 million to the Atlanta-based nonprofit Center for Transportation and the Environment.

According to DOT, the $995,098 grant will go "to develop, evaluate and plan the deployment of a Bus Exportable Power System that would allow existing transit buses to export power using their hybrid propulsion systems. The system essentially would transform hybrid buses into mobile power generators for use during all-hazards emergency response and recovery."

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About the Author

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