The Georgia Tech College Republicans (GTCR) hosted Secretary of State Karen Handel on campus last Tuesday. Handel came as part of her campaign to gain support for herself as the next governor of Ga. She is running against six other Republican candidates. Handel opened her speech with her vision for Ga., establishing a focus on prioritization of the state budget, the job market and education in both the K-12 and university systems.
“Georgia needs a next-generation leader… with real tenacious leadership skills. I have the direct front line economic experience that other candidates don’t have,” Handel said.
Handel commended Tech and other Ga. universities for their top research programs. When Handel opened the floor for questions from students in attendance, she mentioned a need to transform the state budget, listing Indiana’s $1 billion reserves as a example for what Georgia’s finances could be like.
“We’ve let ourselves get caught in crisis management,” Handel said.
Handel believes the state budget should be prioritized as opposed to the current method of giving every state governmental institution equal reductions. If elected, Handel plans for comprehensive tax reform partnership with local governments, reducing income taxes and increasing sales taxes in Ga. Handel noted a need “to get back to ‘fixed-for-four’ tuition” policy for the university system.
“University fees are hard to manage when students don’t know how much the costs will be from year to year,” Handel said.
Handel also mentioned the need to fix state education on the K-12 level in terms of both costs and test scores.
“We’ve doubled the per-person spending, but SAT scores haven’t doubled and the dropout rate hasn’t halved,” Handel said, noting that she wanted more accountability for teachers and integration of technology.
“I don’t think vouchers are the magic bullet. If we don’t fix K-12, we’ll see a deterioration of the university system,” Handel said.
In addition to addressing school reform, Handel discussed a need for state-wide transportation system and not wanting Atlanta to be the hole in a rail transit system.
“We need road and rail for people and product…. Think about our state 30 years from now if we don’t embrace transit,” Handel said.
While education and transportation made up a majority of the discussion, students did bring up other timely issues such as gun control.
“Recently, the gun rights issue has become a hot topic again, launching the college campus back into the old debate of whether or not to allow concealed carry on campus. Last night, I asked Karen what she thought about the bill, and she said she’s cautious about it and it needs to be thoroughly examined. She did not support it, nor did she condemn it,” said Kristen Greig, second-year ENVE major and GTCR Chairwoman.
Handel is the second Republican candidate to visit campus. If elected, she would be the first female governor of Ga.