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Kemp promises teacher raises and workforce housing in annual speech

Georgia Governor Kemp delivers the 2023 State of the State address on Jan. 26 as Lt. Gov. Burt Jones looks on.
GPB
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Georgia Governor Kemp delivers the 2023 State of the State address on Jan. 26 as Lt. Gov. Burt Jones looks on.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp gave his state of the state address today, with a booming economy, an historic budget surplus, and a wealth of political capital.

Calling the upcoming session “one of consequence,” Kemp praised the state’s economic success.

"In less than 365 days, we announced four of the largest economic development projects in state history," Kemp said. "Just those four projects alone will bring over 20,000 new jobs and over $17 billion in investment to rural communities across Georgia."

Those jobs – 85% of which Kemp says will be located outside metro Atlanta – come with a significant challenge.

"But transformational projects, good-paying jobs, and new investment are worth little if there aren’t options for hardworking Georgians to live where they work," Kemp said.

[T]ransformational projects, good-paying jobs, and new investment are worth little if there aren’t options for hardworking Georgians to live where they work.
Governor Brian Kemp

Kemp told lawmakers that he is creating a Rural Workforce Housing Fund to address a growing scarcity of workforce housing.

Kemp also put education at the center of his speech, touting his proposal to fully fund public schools, and provide teachers with a $2,000 pay raise on top of pay raises given out to teachers in recent years.

"In total, we will have given hardworking educators a $7,000 pay raise in just five years. No other General Assembly or governor will have raised teacher pay by so much, so quickly, in state history," Kemp said. "With the passage of this budget, the average teacher salary in Georgia will also now be over $7,000 higher than the Southeast regional average."

Speaking about the state’s higher education system, Kemp drew bipartisan applause with a promise to fully fund the Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship.

Kemp also recognized UGA student Oba Samaye, a first-generation college student and HOPE recipient.

The governor also spoke at length about crime, acknowledging a state trooper who was shot and injured while clearing the Atlanta Public Safety Training Facility site. He also revisited a regular theme from his 2022 campaign – rising gang violence.

"In communities across our state, gangs are actively recruiting children as young as elementary school students into a life of crime. They are targeting the most innocent among us, pulling them down a dark path that too often leads to either a prison cell or the cemetery," Kemp said. "Let me be clear: come after our children, and we will come after you."

Health care formed the final major theme of Kemp’s address. The governor is proposing millions in loan forgiveness programs to increase the number of health care workers and an expansion of residency slots for physicians.

He also defended his Georgia Pathways program, an alternative to Medicaid expansion which some policy experts say will cost taxpayers more money than Medicaid expansion.

"Upwards of 345,000 Georgians could qualify for the Pathways program and healthcare coverage for the first time, with no changes for those who qualify for regular Medicaid," Kemp said. "And unlike Medicaid expansion, Georgia Pathways will not kick 200,000 Georgians off their private sector insurance."

Kemp’s ambitious budget proposals will face some scrutiny and ultimately a series of votes from state lawmakers in coming weeks.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.
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