ATLANTA — Jason Carter summoned reporters to a conference call Monday to blast Gov. Nathan Deal for the latest rise in the state’s unemployment rate, offering education spending as a general solution.
Meanwhile, the Libertarian nominee renewed his specific pledge to drop the unemployment rate with employer rebates. And Deal’s staff said Georgia’s unemployment rate has been so slow to decline because people are moving into the state to find work.
Carter, the Democratic challenger, attacked the Republican governor for having the nation’s highest increase in recent layoffs and for leaving the state’s middle class in what Carter called “freefall.” The July unemployment rate rose from 7.4 percent to 7.8 percent, second-worst in the country behind Mississippi.
“Gov. Deal has just not articulated any vision at all,” Carter said. “There has been a grab bag of economic incentives that hasn’t worked.”
Georgia’s unemployment rate has been among the country’s highest since the recession that ended in 2008. In that time, it has been plagued with some of the highest home foreclosure rates and the nation’s worst bank-default rate.
Deal came to office in 2011 promising to address the jobs issue. The state has gained the seventh-most jobs in the U.S. in that time while its unemployment rate has declined from 10 percent.
“Gov. Deal’s low-tax, pro-jobs approach has worked, and we’ve become the No. 1 place in the nation in which to do business,” said Deal’s spokeswoman Jennifer Talaber. “Carter promises major spending increases and more government. That means job-killing tax hikes.”
But Carter said the incumbent hasn’t done enough. He pointed to the 45,000 students who left technical colleges after Deal scaled back the HOPE Grant, saying many of them could be filling the chronic openings for welders, engineers, computer programmers and motion-picture crew.
Asked by reporters how he would boost hiring, the Democrat said instead of economic development based on financial incentives, he would invest in education, arguing that employers would be inclined to bring their plants to a state with a long-term focus.
“We have to invest in our people. That’s the backbone of any economy,” he said.
He acknowledged that his recipe might not immediately result in jobs.
“Am I saying that I will go out there and hire a bunch of people in the short term? No,” he said.
However, Libertarian nominee Andrew Hunt is promising a quick, measurable impact from his own plan, vowing to bring the unemployment rate below 5 percent by the end of his first four years in office. He wants to replace financial incentives to major employers with a check to every company equal to their payroll taxes for Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance premiums.
“It will be a huge boost to jobs right away,” said Hunt, who notes that he’s the only businessman running while Carter and Deal are both attorneys.
Hunt’s rebate would only be available for jobs paying more than $11 per hour. To cover the rebate’s costs, in addition to eliminating economic-development incentives, he would end prison sentences for illegal drug use, predicting that would free up a significant portion of what taxpayers spend on corrections.
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