The Catoosa County News

Poll shows Georgians support Medicaid expansion, increasing education funding

- By Rebecca Grapevine

A new poll out Friday, Feb. 3, shows Georgians support using some of the state’s record surplus to improve social services by expanding Medicaid and increasing funding for education.

The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute (GBPI), a left-leaning think tank in Atlanta, commission­ed the poll of 1,099 Georgians through the University of Georgia’s School of Public and Internatio­nal Affairs.

The poll found 71.4% of Georgians support full Medicaid expansion. Notably, it showed 56.4% of Republican­s and 70% of independen­ts favor full Medicaid expansion, indicating broad bipartisan support for the proposal.

Expanding Medicaid would cover about 500,000 Georgians at a relatively low cost to the state, advocates contend.

However, Republican leaders have said they will not consider full Medicaid expansion during this legislativ­e session. Instead, the state will implement GOP Gov. Brian Kemp’s limited expansion this summer that will provide Medicaid to low-income Georgians who meet certain work or education requiremen­ts.

Full Medicaid expansion is a cornerston­e of Democrats’ policy agenda. Though the majority of poll respondent­s appeared to support Medicaid expansion, that has not translated into electoral successes for Democrats in Georgia.

“When we talk about elections, there are a lot of factors at play … that are going to influence voter choice,” said Danny Kanso, senior budget analyst at GBPI, about the difference­s between the poll results and how Georgians voted.

“Just because one candidate or another in the previous election had a certain policy as part of their platform, that should not foreclose the opportunit­y to enact good public policy that is broadly supported across the state.”

Another public health measure, increasing the state’s tobacco tax to the national average of $1.91 per cigarette pack, also garnered the support of 62.8% of poll respondent­s. That proposal also had support across partisan lines, with the majority of liberals, moderates and conservati­ves all saying they would like to see the tobacco tax increased.

State Rep. Ron Stephens, R-savannah, introduced legislatio­n recently to increase the state’s tobacco tax, although his bill would increase the tax by just 57 cents.

Georgia Rep. Michelle Au, D-johns Creek, has also introduced legislatio­n to create a joint study committee to examine the costs and effects of smoking on the health of Georgians.

Increasing funding for education also garnered broad support in the poll, with 78.1% of respondent­s saying they support using state lottery funds to offer universal pre-k to all Georgia children. Only about half of Georgia’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in pre-k in 2021, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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