Nathan Deal's 2016 agenda includes $50M pre-k increase

Gov. Nathan Deal's 2016 agenda is slowly taking shape.

In today's premium edition, you'll find the broad outlines of his plan to pull out an additional $50 million from a special lottery reserve fund to boost teacher pay and reduce class sizes.

A 180-day calendar has since been restored, but class sizes remain the same. And advocates have long called for smaller classrooms and higher teacher pay to improve the quality of early childhood education.

Deal plans to get the funding to increase teacher pay and cut class sizes from an enticing pot of money known as the unrestricted lottery reserve fund. The fund had roughly $350 million by the end of 2014, after growing about $60 million a year the past three years. It is separate from the $460 million in lottery reserves that, by law, cannot be touched.

Other parts of his policy agenda for his sixth-year in office have already emerged.

He's said he would launch a pilot program that would help prospective employees who fail drug tests get treatment for their addictions. And he signaled he won't derail legislation that would legalize casino gambling, which would need support from two-thirds of lawmakers and a majority of voters.

The governor is also urging a slower approach on another big debate that could land at the Legislature next year.

House lawmakers have already begun weighing a proposal that would lower the state income tax from 6 percent to 4 percent, increase the state sales tax from 4 percent to 5 percent and eliminate more than a dozen tax breaks.

Deal told reporters on Friday that he's asked House leaders to "be very cautious" any tax reform proposal that could lead to instability in Georgia's revenue stream.

"If we envision any major reforms coming out of our education reform commission, there will be, probably, significant dollars associated with those recommendations," [Deal] said. "… I would hate for us to be in a posture where we have to reject those simply because we don't have a stable revenue stream to be able to support them."