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23 October 2008

Hall County State House Candidate Says He'll Fight For Teachers

Hall County State House Candidate Chris Strickland has come out publicly against the anticipated slash of funding to the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for retired teachers. The plan would change these pension increases from an automatic 1.5% increase every six months to a “possible” increase based upon a board vote.

Pension increases have been automatically granted since 1969. The Perdue Administration’s proposal is to change the wording of the pension plan so that these adjustments would become less frequent, or perhaps, not even happen at all.

“The budget shortfall has convinced our state government to balance this budget on those that can afford it the least,” Strickland said. “The teacher’s retirement fund in Georgia is one of the most solvent in the nation. These increases have already been paid through payroll deductions of previous teachers, and now the Governor wants to take that money to make up for legislators’ inability to balance the budget.”

The budget shortfall is projected at $2 billion dollars for FY 2009, and cutting the budget has been a recent priority for the Perdue administration. A special session of the Georgia State House could alleviate the shortfall by requiring legislators to pass emergency cost-cutting procedures. Governor Perdue has been unwilling to call a session, however.

“The Governor has slashed Georgia’s education by nearly $2 billion dollars, and he now wants to cut it more. It’s a disgrace to educators everywhere,” Strickland continued. “The Teacher Retirement fund has nearly $47 billion dollars in it, already paid by previous educators. Why steal this money from 78,000 retired teachers?”

Chris Strickland said that he would vote against all such legislative attempts to deny COLA increases once elected to the Legislature. As a teacher, Strickland explained that he has a stake in improving Georgia’s education for students and educators alike. “We can be a great state, but we need great leadership. Sadly, our state is burdened with tired politicians and stale ideas,” he said.