ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp gave his State of the State address in front of Georgia's General Assembly on Wednesday morning, discussing goals for his second term as governor, which included promises of across-the-board pay raises for state employees and public school teachers.
Kemp's proposed funds for education
Both budgets proposed by Kemp will "provide an additional $1.9 billion" toward education. The funding initially proposed a $1.1 billion plan that would contribute toward K-12 education and teacher pay.
Kemp proposed teacher pay raises of $2,000. In total, he said teachers were given a $7,000 pay raise over the past five years. The average in Georgia will be higher than the southeast regional average, he went on to say.
Funding will also go toward certification grants, apprenticeships Zell Miller's hope and grants scholarships will once again cover 100% of tuition for students.
Kemp talks public safety
Kemp recognized his wife, Martie Kemp and her efforts in pushing the GRACE commission, legislation aimed at cutting down human trafficking in the state. Kemp applauded the legislation for making Georgia a “hostile place” for human traffickers and a “safe place” for victims.
Kemp also proposed increased penalties for organizations required to put resources into human trafficking. Kemp also thanked the attorney general’s gang prosecution unit, which has indicted over 50 gang members, according to Kemp.
“Where local district attorney’s are unwilling to confront these violent offenders, the gang prosecution unit will,” said Kemp.
Kemp also proposed penalties for gang members recruiting children. “If you come after our children, we will be coming after you.”
Kemp commends trooper shot, arrests of protestors opposed to 'Cop City'
Kemp commended the efforts of one Georgia State Patrol trooper, who troopers say was shot by a protestor while they worked to clear out a wooded area.
The area is the future site of the city of Atlanta training facility, commonly referred to as "cop city" by its critics. Troopers shot and killed the protestor, Manuel Esteban Paez after they say he shot at troopers.
Currently, the trooper remains in the ICU. Kemp also commended law enforcement who arrested the protestors remaining at the site and those who were arrested in Downtown Atlanta after a police car was set on fire.
"We will always back the blue," said Kemp. Kemp did not address some resident's concerns about the shooting was not captured on law enforcement bodycams. State troopers were not required to wear bodycam footage during the operation, leaving many questions unanswered about the details of the alleged shootout.
Medicaid for expectant mothers
Kemp said Medicaid coverage was expanded to a full year after a mother gives birth.
He is also proposing legislation for pregnant women to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. Expecting mothers couldn't previously apply for TANF until after a child was born. However, TANF will only be available to those who qualify.
How Kemp is addressing Georgia's need for healthcare access and nurses
Kemp proposed $4.5 million dollars be used to put more effort into loan repayment programs for healthcare workers pursuing the medical field. He also called for additional 102 residency slots which costs $1.7 million.
He said he would like to allocate $52 million to Georgia Pathways to Coverage program, a limited expansion of Medicaid that would require recipients to work or volunteer for a minimum of 80 hours a month. The program is set to launch July 1.
Rural workforce housing fund
Kemp is proposing a rural workforce housing fund, which would see the state partner with rural developers to create more housing opportunities for Georgia residents.
If the state ends the fiscal year with another big surplus, he said he plans to use the money to support other areas including:
- Tax breaks
- Investments into the state’s economy
In response to Kemp's speech, prominent Democrat lawmakers pushed back against the governor's claim that Georgia was stronger than ever.
"These notions bear some truth but are deeply misleading at the same time," Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler told reporters.
Butler, House Minority Leader James Beverly, Democratic Senate Whip Harold Jones II, Democratic House Whip Sam Park and Sen. Nan Orrock outlined their agenda for the session.
The Democrats criticized Kemp for refusing to spend the state's $6.6 billion surplus on much needed service and underfunded state agencies.
The increased spending proposed by the governor, they argue, isn't enough. Democrats said they will propose legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and a $10,000 pay raise for state employees.
Democrats are also seeking to overturn the state's abortion law through the recently proposed Reproductive Freedom Act. A case regarding the state's six week ban is set to come before the Georgia Supreme Court in March.
The lawmakers were also critical of Kemp's limited expansion of Medicaid.
"People across the state of Georgia are hurting," Butler said. "Two years of the COVID pandemic and over a decade of austerity cuts have left many, especially in rural parts of the state, without access to critically needed services like living-wage jobs, transportation, broadband internet, affordable healthcare and quality public education.”