Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, pitched fiscal conservatism and old-school Republican self-reliance in a Flowery Branch speech about his run for lieutenant governor on Monday.
Speaking to the South Hall Republican Club at the Spout Springs Library, Shafer opted against an outright stump speech and instead led a crowd of about 22 people through stories about his family and his time in office that painted the Georgia Senate’s president pro tempore as a slasher of spending and a skeptic of government.
First elected in 2002, Shafer is now running to replace Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle as Georgia’s next lieutenant governor in the 2018 election — a step up in his leadership of the Senate. He’s raised about $900,000 in his race against Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, and Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough, for the second-most powerful seat in the state.
Shafer had an introduction and endorsement from Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, who introduced and praised the Duluth senator and said he’ll “make a terrific lieutenant governor.”
Of his personal life, Shafer talked about his family history and the adversity faced by his father and grandmother. In the early 1950s, Shafer’s grandfather died in a workplace accident, leaving his grandmother to care for her seven children alone.
He led the crowd through his now-successful family’s experience banding together and working to keep themselves afloat without the assistance of the government, turning the anecdote into a question about state and federal policy.
“Instead of sending my grandma Shafer her widow’s benefit, (what if) they had come to the rescue of the Shafer family by moving her and her children into a public housing project where they could live for free, and they had given her food stamps so she could feed her family for free, and they had given her aid to families with dependent children and temporary assistance for needy families and free cellphones and medical vouchers and all the things that we do today to help people?” Shafer asked. “Would she and her children and the generations that followed, would they have been better off or would they have been worse off?”
Things would have been different, he said, but not better. He also talked about the value of work and how government policy disincentivizes it.
“If you have a baby out of wedlock, what do we do? We pay you money,” Shafer said, noting he doesn’t blame the poor, who are responding to incentives. “If you have another baby, we pay you more. If you marry the father … we take the money away. You get a job and work and what do we do? We take the money away. You save? What do we do? We take the money away. We punish all of the good behaviors, and we reward all of the bad behaviors.”
On policy fronts — beyond reducing the welfare state “in a very serious way” — Shafer touted his work capping the state income tax at 6 percent and moving the Georgia General Assembly to a zero-based budgeting system, in which one-eighth of the budget is rebuilt “from scratch” each year, forcing department heads to justify their spending requests.
He criticized state spending on “soft” programs and said the legislature’s recent changes on motor fuel taxes have set the state up well to pay for new roads and bridges. He noted that he does not support expanding MARTA northward and thinks Gov. Nathan Deal was right to refuse Medicaid expansion.
Shafer also noted that he supports the lieutenant governor’s current scope of power in the capital.
“If I become lieutenant governor, I don’t want to change the rules at all,” he said. “I don’t want to try to take more power for the (position). I don’t want to see any power taken away.”