Atlanta Republican state Sen. Hunter Hill is running as a straight-edge, limited-government conservative in the race to be Georgia’s next governor.
The Army veteran and state senator is pledging to eliminate Georgia’s personal income tax and double infrastructure spending without raising taxes, which he says is possible by reducing state spending on welfare programs.
He sat down with The Times on Wednesday to talk about these ideas, the rest of his platform and state policy.
Hill is in his second term representing parts of Atlanta and Cobb County after first being elected in 2012. He served three tours of duty in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and now runs a firm coaching business executives.
Hill was in third place in the fundraising contest as of mid-July with $1.15 million raised, behind Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, but he’s raised the most money of the candidates not in statewide office.
Within Georgia politics, he’s known for his approach to school choice, offering parents an education savings account that’s not quite the same as the nationally debated school voucher idea. His proposal would still free parents to use public school funding to send their children to private institutions.
In his run for governor, he argues that state leaders have missed the mark in recent years by allowing the state budget to grow without increasing transportation spending. The state now spends about 5 percent of its budget on transportation, he said.
Hill is pitching a limited-government perspective that relies on civil society — ministries, the business community, families and nonprofits — to build a social safety net.
“The expanse of government has created a false sense of security that the government is going to do something for them,” Hill said. “And it’s failed in the last 50 years on delivering on that promise.”
To promote that worldview, the state senator hopes to pull back state funding for social welfare programs, cut spending and taxes, and push more money into constitutionally mandated functions of state government.
“I believe we can get to 10 percent without raising taxes in my first term by reprioritization and spending less on areas where I believe families and nonprofits and ministries are better equipped to deal with the brokenness in our society as opposed to government,” Hill said. “I’m looking at food stamps, I’m looking at welfare, I’m looking at Medicaid. I’m looking at any area where the government is intending to try to make somebody’s life better, really, because the government doesn’t deliver results in those areas.
“We all want to help people, and I do too, but the government has failed in its promise to deliver results for these folks by giving them money for nothing.”
Hill emphasizes the state government’s primary roles: education, public safety and transportation.
The state senator supports Gov. Nathan Deal’s expansion of the state’s technical college system, saying that expansions of vocational education outside of the conventional four-year degree are good for the state.
Hill also supports more spending on law enforcement and endorsed recent pay raises for state law enforcement officers.
In diverting money for state social welfare programs into transportation, Hill said he wants to ease congestion in Atlanta by diverting truck traffic around the city.
“We need to expand I-16 west and create a corridor north that ties into I-75 at about the Rome area,” he said. “I’m OK looking at the cost of tunneling (under Atlanta), but we also might need to go up and double-deck the top of I-285 to allow the truck traffic that’s not destined for Atlanta to get out of dodge, and so those of us that are living in this area can operate underneath.”
In more recent news, Hill, a West Point graduate, said he thinks President Donald Trump made the right decision on Wednesday when Trump announced that transgender individuals would no longer be able to serve in the military.
“People that are going through difficult — candidly, mental — challenges as to who they are and what they’re about are not the best people to be teammates when life is at risk,” Hill said. “This is our military. It’s not a social experiment. I do feel for the people who are going through the mental anguish of trying to figure out who they are.”
Trump’s announcement, like many of his actions as president, was met with a significant amount of debate and derision. As with the state’s tax burden and infrastructure needs, Hill said the current climate of “incredible divisiveness” can be healed by reducing the size of government.
“You have people who philosophically believe that government should do more and provide more, and then you have people like me who recognize that’s an empty promise,” Hill said. “... I think a more limited government approach would actually bring our communities together because we would have to depend on one another when something bad happens to a family member or a neighbor instead of looking to the government. I think the size and scope of government is what’s created this divisiveness.”