ATLANTA — On Thursday, Gov. Brian Kemp gave his State of the State address before the General Assembly.
Though he touched on a variety of issues, the governor primarily focused his address on education, healthcare workers, and public safety.
Just one day prior, Gov. Kemp proposed that the state provide a $250 to $500 tax credit to Georgians during the annual Eggs and Issues Legislative Preview.
Currently, the governor is in the middle of a tough re-election campaign, facing a primary challenge from former Sen. David Perdue with Stacey Abrams looming on the other side if he makes it through the primary.
Gov. Kemp said during his address that he will recommend his fiscal year 2023 budget proposal fully restore the state's education spending to pre-pandemic levels (Georgia fiscal years begin in the summer, so this would take effect for the next school year starting in the fall).
The governor also endorsed a $2,000 pay raise for Georgia teachers in his fiscal year 2023 budget — which would complete a $5,000 raise he promised back in 2019. Teachers first saw a $3,000 raise that year.
Facing a primary challenge in his re-election campaign and looking to win back the conservative voting base loyal to former President Donald Trump, the governor also staked out ground on socially contentious education issues such as Critical Race Theory and how trans students participate in school sports.
Gov. Kemp also directed attention toward dire need for healthcare workers, who are in short supply across the country, he added.
To combat this shortage, Kemp proposed an initial $1 million for the University System of Georgia to expand nursing programs up to 500 students annually over five years. He also suggested adding additional funding to the state's technical college system in order to "grow their partnership with Allied Health to serve up to 700 additional students annually." Kemp said an additional $1 million would also be allocated to Mercer University to address physician shortages in rural areas.
In total, Kemp stated he hopes to add an additional 1,300 healthcare practitioners to the state.
Finally, Kemp touched on the issue of crime in Georgia.
The governor offered a broad array of proposed solutions to the issue; the first being a new "anti-gang unit" within the attorney general's office. Kemp added that this new unit will theoretically allow Georgia's attorney general to direct more resources toward prosecuting gangs. Additionally, he said his office is already working on legislation that would allow the attorney general to partner with the GBI and local law enforcement to investigate, as well as prosecute, gang members.
Next, Gov. Kemp addressed a desire to tackle case backlogs resulting from the COVID pandemic.
"My proposal will recommend $7 million for upgraded GBI crime lab equipment, begin improvements to GBI headquarters, and provide an additional 32 staff members to the crime lab and medical examiners office to address their increased volume," he explained.
Lastly, Kemp proposed $3 million to support a new additional state trooper school class.
Response from Democrats
Kemp's address nevertheless drew criticism from those across the aisle. Shortly after he spoke, Rebecca Galanti, the spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Georgia, issued her own rebuttal saying:
“Today’s State of the State address reeked of election-year grandstanding and showed us that Brian Kemp will continue to shamelessly put politics ahead of the actual needs of Georgia families and kids. If Kemp actually cared about Georgians’ wellbeing, he would fully expand Medicaid or mount a meaningful campaign to protect Georgians from COVID-19 – not work to ban books and put more guns on our streets. Make no mistake: the misguided priorities Kemp outlined today would endanger communities, threaten our kids’ education, and drive our state further apart.
“Despite his best efforts, Kemp will not be able to distract Georgians from his failed leadership with last-minute, long-overdue financial bumps for workers. Today’s address made it clearer than ever that Georgia deserves a strong Democratic governor who will put the people first and invest in hardworking Georgians all the time, not just during an election year. Georgia is ready for change, and come November, voters will make sure that this was Brian Kemp’s final State of the State address.”