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Georgia governor highlights education, workforce housing plans in State of the State address

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Georgia governor highlights education, workforce housing plans in State of the State address

Gov. Brian Kemp gave a few remarks before signing the Mental Health Parity Act into law on April 4, 2022. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Atlanta, GA — During a joint session of the state Senate and House of Representatives, Gov. Brian Kemp delivered the State of the State address on Jan. 25. In his speech, he highlighted plans for education funding and addressing workforce housing.

Kemp also highlighted the state’s economic success in the past year.

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

Last week, the state’s Department of Economic Development announced 17,500 new jobs and over $13 billion in investment coming to the state.

“I’m especially proud that, once again, 85% of those jobs are coming to areas outside metro Atlanta,” Kemp said. “Thanks to the collective work of those in this chamber, those who came before us, and local leadership across Georgia, we’ve been named the No. 1 state for business for nine years in a row.”

Despite the economic conditions, there’s a significant need for more workers and quality housing for those workers.

“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. “We’re talking about the people who are teaching your children, keeping your community safe, who provide life-saving support in times of trouble, and those who make the goods and provide the services that make a community such a great place to call home.”

He has created the Rural Workforce Housing Fund to enable the state to partner with local governments to develop sites for workforce housing.

“This year, the budgets I presented to you make significant steps in addressing both issues,” Kemp said. “We are putting precious state dollars where our priorities are, including every level of education to grow a generation of highly skilled workers.”

In the budget, Kemp has allocated an additional $1.9 billion to education, fully funded the quality basic education formula, and proposed another $2,000 pay raise for teachers.

“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,” Kemp said. “But we know that teachers don’t just need more pay and resources, they also need reinforcements. That’s why I’m furthering the teacher workforce pipeline measures we put into place during my first term through certification grants that will help paraprofessionals become teachers.”

In his speech, Kemp also mentioned plans to provide funding programs for healthcare workers. There are 67 counties in the state that have less than 10 physicians, he said.

“And Georgia’s need for more nurses is well documented,” Kemp said. “That’s why I’m proposing over $4.5 million in loan repayment programs to grow the number of healthcare workers in Georgia. I’m also calling for an additional 102 residency slots through an investment of $1.7 million. With these additions, we will exceed the initial goal number of this program.”

To read Kemp’s full speech, click here.

State Sen. Elena Parent (D – Senate District 42) delivered the Democratic response to the State of the State address. She is the chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus. Parent noted that this legislative session is a chance to build on the Legislature’s successes.

“Successes like the mental health parity act and the expansion of postpartum healthcare coverage that we passed into law in 2022,” Parent said. “While we agree with Gov. Kemp that Georgia’s best days are ahead, this is not a foregone conclusion or a guaranteed outcome. We can make this vision a reality only if we deploy our budget effectively and implement policies that build an economy and a workforce for a future that includes every Georgian.”

She added that while the desired outcome may be the same for both parties, the path to get there is different. She noted that the state must strengthen its government agencies and programs.

“GA may be ranked the No. 1 state in the country to do business, but still, too many Georgians lack livable wages, adequate healthcare and quality education,” Parent said. “We’re simply not doing enough to ensure that all Georgians share in this prosperity that our success is meant to bring.”

The state also has to invest in its people, and fund things like healthcare, childcare and transportation. Democrats are working to introduce policy initiatives that aim to improve the lives of Georgians, Parent said.

“To achieve the future we envision, we must invest in our workforce across the state and fund a plan for economic inclusion,” Parent said. “We must work alongside Georgians across the state to co-design economic development plans and support investments in business, technology and STEM jobs that work for Georgians in every corner of our state.”

Democrats have also proposed a $10,000 pay increase for teachers and law enforcement officers, with the establishment of regular pay increases.

“We must revamp the public school funding formula, invest more in transportation and expand broadband internet,” Parent said. “We cannot keep shift education costs to local districts, especially in rural communities that simply cannot afford to shoulder that burden. From pre-K to higher ed, Georgians need and deserve access to quality education because it is the foundation for our state today and tomorrow.”

She added that Democrats are also prioritizing affordable housing.

“We must protect people from evictions and negligent landlords and expand housing options for people trying to get back on their feet, those who are working hard to simply stay afloat,” Parent said.

To watch Parent’s full speech, click here.

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