ATLANTA — Each year, thousands of Georgians gather for the state's annual 'Eggs & Issues' breakfast, an event that officially kicks off the state's legislative session. The breakfast also serves as an opportunity for leaders to set forth their goals for the upcoming year. Three of the top priorities highlighted at the event included tackling the state's labor shortage, expanding education access, and ramping up public safety efforts.
The president for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Chris Clark said that while the pandemic and omicron surge are top of mind, the other crisis Georgia is facing is the labor shortage.
“Our biggest issue right now behind omicron is getting people back to work at the end of the day," added Clark.
He announced that the chamber would be releasing a plan called the 'War on Talent' to help businesses struggling to find workers after the pandemic led to the great resignation over the last year.
“We’ve got to a better job of talking to businesses about how to get employees and keep them in the long run," Clark continued.
According to leaders, the plan outlines policy recommendations and best practices for businesses including encouraging them to increase wages and create workforce housing and transportation. The chamber also said they want to work to reform federal immigration laws to help supply employees to Georgia farmers.
Supporters said the other facet to this initiative is placing a focus on education.
“We’ve got young people that are going to get degrees where there’s not jobs available, so we need to make sure we’re aligned there," Clark added.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp also emphasized the link between education and a strong work force, announcing that 90% of tuition would now be covered through the Hope Scholarship.
“For eight straight years – Georgia’s economy has been unmatched across the country, and it’s our responsibility to develop a workforce that furthers that success by cutting costs for families and students – we’ll do exactly that," said Gov. Kemp.
The governor added that it's critical to make college more accessible in the quest to battle the workforce shortage.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens also spoke at the breakfast acknowledging that one of his biggest challenges this year would be tackling the rise in violent crime in Atlanta.
“This city will be clean, safe, and equitable for everybody," Dickens declared.
The mayor added that he would also focus on keeping Buckhead in Atlanta, kicking off these efforts by unveiling a new police precinct in Buckhead on Thursday.
“Some people may want to use the uptick in crime to break us apart, but we know as a city that we are stronger together," Dickens added.
Both House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Governor Jeff Duncan said that they would be focusing on increasing funding for police departments. The Lt. Governor announced that he would be introducing the Less Crime Act which would set up a $250 million tax credit for people to donate to law enforcement.
“This is an opportunity for citizens to write checks directly to your local law enforcement agencies and get a dollar per dollar state tax credit," explained Lt. Gov. Duncan.
The Lt. Gov said his plan is for departments to use the donated money to increase pay, hire more officers, and improve resources to handle mental health related emergencies.