ATLANTA — Overcoming the challenges of governing in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Brian Kemp touted his first-term successes and future plans for the state throughout his fifth State of the State deal with Jan. 25.
Deliberate enhancements for schooling, public security and well being care had been key focuses of Kemp’s deal with.
He additionally lauded the Georgia Division of Financial Improvement for carry massive investments and jobs to Georgia, significantly in rural areas of the state.
“Simply final week, we realized that within the first half of this fiscal yr, our top-ranked Division of Financial Improvement helped to announce 17,500 new jobs and greater than $13 billion in funding coming to Georgia,” Kemp mentioned. “I’m particularly proud that, as soon as once more, 85% of these jobs are coming to areas exterior metro Atlanta.”
Whereas Democrat leaders acknowledged the job development and improvement as constructive happenings for the economic system, Democrats argue that the state should additionally increase its minimal wage from $7.25 per hour to $15.
“The time to do that is now. We have to make sure that all Georgians make a residing wage,” Democratic Sen. Nan Orrock mentioned throughout a press convention following Kemp’s deal with. “We face a scenario the place numerous numbers of Georgians work two, three and unbelievably, even 4 jobs at a time… These are info that can maintain us again and maintain again Georgia households and maintain again our economic system.”
Regardless of being named the No. 1 state to do enterprise 9 years in a row (by Space Administration journal), Kemp acknowledged the necessity for continued enchancment in high quality housing, schooling, public security and well being care.
He plans to launch the Rural Workforce Housing Fund that can permit the state to companion with native governments to develop websites for workforce housing.
“I’m additionally desperate to see options that can come from others within the subsequent few months,” he mentioned.
Kemp highlighted the $5,000 trainer pay increase that was given throughout his first time period in two installments. He’s proposing one other $2,000 within the upcoming funds for academics.
“With the passage of this funds, the common trainer wage in Georgia can even now be over $7,000 increased than the Southwest regional common,” Kemp mentioned.
However Democrats argued that trainer pay ought to improve by $10,000.
“Extra importantly, set up common wage will increase to make sure our educators and our instructional system delivers the very best quality applications potential,” Senate Minority Whip Harold Jones mentioned. “Along with our frontline academics, let’s remember that we should make investments extra in hiring extra college psychological well being counselors. We should make investments extra in hiring extra social staff, ESL educators and administrative personnel. Lecturers alone can not and mustn’t shoulder all of this burden on their very own.”
Kemp mentioned a proposed grant program will certify practically 5,000 paraprofessionals as academics within the workforce, and for the primary time in 10 years, the HOPE Scholarship and grant will return to funding 100% of tuition.
He additionally introduced a funds proposal to dedicate an additional $1.9 million to completely fund the High quality Primary Training Act (QBE), a formulation used to information funding distribution in Okay-12 faculties.
Georgia’s initiatives to crack down on intercourse trafficking and supply protected havens for victims via the Georgians for Refuge, Motion, Compassion, and Training (GRACE) Fee has seen nice success, Kemp mentioned.
The GBI’s Gang Activity Drive and the Gang Prosecution Unit of the state Lawyer Basic’s workplace have additionally seen successes. The lately launched Gang Prosecution Unit has indicted greater than 50 gang members in its first six months, Kemp reported.
“The place native district attorneys are unwilling to confront these violent offenders, the Gang Prosecution Unit is greater than succesful and prepared to step in,” he mentioned.
Kemp added that he’s proposing laws that can improve penalties for these making an attempt to recruit kids into gangs, and that he appears to be like ahead to working with the legislature on decreasing the “revolving door” of criminals again on the road.
Democrats acknowledged the bipartisan assist of human trafficking initiatives and legislation enforcement however mentioned police accountability and gun reform additionally play roles in enhancing public security.
“Gov. Kemp talks concerning the crime and violence on our streets however let’s be trustworthy about what’s actually happening. Georgians can now carry a gun and not using a allow due to a invoice the Republican majority handed,” mentioned Democrat Chair Elena Mother or father. “We’d like insurance policies and legal guidelines that require frequent sense use of those weapons.”
Democrats are advocating for legal guidelines that require weapons to be locked within the presence of minors, a repeal of the 2022 permitless gun carry legislation, and investments into group violence prevention applications.
Well being care
Almost 70 counties have fewer than 10 physicians, coupled with a scarcity of nurses in Georgia and across the nation. Kemp is proposing greater than $4.5 million in mortgage reimbursement applications and a $1.7 million funding for residency slots to draw staff within the area.
Throughout his State of the State, Kemp took a jab at Democrats’ repeated calls to increase Medicaid eligibility to extra Georgians.
“Whereas others have known as for increasing one-size-fits none, huge authorities well being applications, because of our insurance policies, enrollment within the particular person market has greater than doubled since 2019 to over 700,000 Georgians,” Kemp mentioned.
He added that the state’s reinsurance program has lowered premiums by a mean of 12.4% throughout the state.
“That represents a mean annual premium discount of just about $1,000 a yr,” he mentioned. “In rural counties, the place premium costs had been the least inexpensive after I took workplace, the reinsurance program has lowered premiums from 25% to over 40%.”
On subject of Medicaid, he referenced the state’s growth of Medicaid protection for pregnant girls from six months postpartum to 1 yr postpartum, which was accredited within the 2022 legislative session. In July, the state can be planning to launch the Georgia Pathways to Protection program, which would require enrollees to finish 80 hours of labor, schooling, job coaching, or group service per 30 days to get Medicaid medical insurance.
“I’m allocating $52 million to start out this program up and join these in have to its advantages,” he defined. “…Upwards of 345,000 Georgians may qualify for the Pathways program and well being care protection for the primary time, with no modifications for individuals who qualify for normal Medicaid. And in contrast to Medicaid growth, Georgia Pathways won’t kick 200,000 Georgians off their personal sector insurance coverage.”
The reference made to the 200,000 Georgians refers to those that had been allowed to acquire Medicaid protection in response to the COVID-19 pandemic via Congress’s Households First Coronavirus Response Act in March 2020. The Act gave states a brief 6.2% in federal funding improve in the event that they ensured steady protection via the tip of the month wherein a federally declared public well being emergency (PHE) expires, which on this case is about for April 11.
Kemp’s group can be proposing that pregnant girls who qualify for the Momentary Help for Needy Households (TANF) month-to-month money help program fulfill an employment providers element for low-income households with kids.
“I do know this measure is supported by many on this chamber and I’m grateful in your backing,” Kemp mentioned.
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