The Standard Journal

Gov. Kemp outlines ‘marching orders’ for start of 2nd term

Teacher raises and workforce housing help are among his priorities for his second term as governor.

- By Dave William This story is available through a partnershi­p with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Ga. Press Educationa­l Foundation.

With a bruising but successful reelection campaign behind him, Gov. Brian Kemp vowed Wednesday, Jan. 25, to build on the successes of his first term in education, public safety, economic developmen­t, and health care.

“The campaigns have all been run … and the people have spoken,” Kemp told a joint session of the Georgia House and Senate in his annual State of State address. “They have given us our marching orders, and it’s time to get back to work.”

Kemp spent some time early in a 30-minute speech highlighti­ng his administra­tion’s accomplish­ments during the last four years, including a $5,000 pay raise for Georgia teachers and more than 20,000 new jobs, primarily in rural communitie­s, generated in part by four of the largest economic developmen­t projects in the state’s history.

To build on those accomplish­ments, Kemp is asking the General Assembly to approve another $2,000 teacher raise that would lift salaries more than $7,000 above the Southeast average. And to give the workers filling those new jobs somewhere to live, he is proposing the creation of a Rural Workforce Housing Fund enabling the state to partner directly with local government­s to develop sites for workforce housing.

“Transforma­tional projects, good-paying jobs, and new investment are worth little if there aren’t options for hardworkin­g Georgians to live where they work,” he said.

With the state sitting atop a $6.6 billion surplus, Kemp urged legislativ­e budget writers to add $1.9 billion in education spending, enabling full funding of the state’s K-12 student funding formula. In the higher education arena, the governor is proposing full funding of the HOPE Scholarshi­ps program for the first time in more than a decade.

While touting his administra­tion’s accomplish­ments to improve public safety, Kemp asked lawmakers to crack down on no-cash bail.

“We can and we must do something about the revolving door of criminal justice, and I look forward to working with this legislatur­e to get it done,” he said.

Kemp also asked for legislatio­n increasing penalties for gang members who recruit children as young as elementary school students.

The sharpest political note the governor sounded was going after the Biden administra­tion for holding up approval of Kemp’s limited Medicaid expansion plan. After the Trump administra­tion signed off on the state’s Pathways to Coverage initiative and its work-study requiremen­ts for Medicaid enrollees, Biden’s Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services withdrew the approval.

It took a lawsuit to clear the plan to take effect. Kemp is asking the General Assembly for $52 million in startup costs to launch the program this summer.

“When it comes to health care for hardworkin­g Georgians, the Biden administra­tion would rather play partisan politics than get people insured and lower costs,” Kemp said. “Folks, we don’t have time to wait on Washington, and I don’t have much patience for D.C. posturing!”

Legislativ­e Democrats have long advocated a full expansion of Georgia’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act to cover more than 500,000 Georgians who earn too much money to qualify for traditiona­l Medicaid but not enough to afford private health insurance.

Kemp said Wednesday about 345,000 Georgians could qualify for the Pathways program and healthcare coverage for the first time without the downside of kicking 200,000 off their private sector insurance.

The governor also proposed legislatio­n allowing pregnant women who qualify to obtain monthly cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Under current law, TANF aid only goes to eligible women after they have given birth.

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