Cagle on ethics, a new Falcons stadium and the state Senate

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle spent the past two years fighting for legitimacy in the state Senate, the chamber over which he presides. Now, with new leaders calling him a key part of the chamber’s “united front,” Cagle sat down with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to talk about rumors of a U.S. Senate run, a new Falcons stadium in Atlanta and why Cagle says Speaker David Ralston is mistaken if he thinks the House has led on ethics.

On ethics:

I’m very proud of what the Senate did on the first day. It’s important to note that we came into session and by lunchtime, everyone in the Senate was having to live under a (lobbyists’) gift cap. That cannot go unnoticed. It was very prudent on the Senate’s part to act swiftly. But it also demonstrates the Senate is taking this issue very seriously. The speaker is also very serious about ethics reform. He is very clear on his position that he wants a zero cap. … We’re going to get to a place, whether it’s by rule or whether it’s by law, that both the House and the Senate will be able to leave this session living under a gift cap.

If the speaker sends a bill that is a total ban (on gifts) and the House has … made a deliberation that they are willing to live under that, then they need to be prepared for that to become law.

On Cagle’s venture capital proposal, which would dedicate $100 million over the next five years to boost Georgia’s nascent technology center:

Anytime you pledge state resources, you have to weigh that against some type of return. We make an investment in the University System of Georgia. What’s our return on investment? Hopefully it’s a better educated state, where more companies want to locate, more jobs are created — it’s an investment that has a return. Everything needs to be viewed in that context.

Last year, we took a very aggressive role on a tax package that made Georgia more business-friendly, specifically the sales tax exemption on manufacturing. We identified a problem … and it helped us recruit more companies. (Before the recession) our economy was primarily built on a very rapidly growing sector, particularly in residential construction. The downturn came and that spigot got turned off — 25 percent of our economy was gone. (But) the technology sectors have continued to do very well. We need a more diversified portfolio across the state.

On the Republican race to replace U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss:

Listen, I’m very flattered that I’ve had the number of calls and emails and messages encouraging me to do this. I’m very humbled to be the lieutenant governor of the state of Georgia. To think about being a United States senator is something that even humbles me more.

But the truth of the matter is I’ve got my hands full right now. I mean, this is a busy session for us. And I have to keep my eye on the ball, doing the job I was elected to do.

On a new Falcons stadium:

The Falcons are important to the state of Georgia, but all the other bowls and sporting activities that occur are equally as important. The college kickoff classics, when you count those along with the SEC (Championship) and other games played in the (Georgia) Dome, from an economic impact, it’s greater than the entire season of the Falcons. This a significant investment. The owner of the Falcons has to be willing to step up to the plate. It’s pretty clear he is willing to do so. As long as there is not an undue burden on the state of Georgia and a financial case is made, then I think a deal can be done.