(The Center Square) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp touted state investments in education and healthcare during his first State of the State address of his second term.
“We are putting precious state dollars where our priorities are, including every level of education to grow a generation of highly skilled workers,” Kemp, a Republican, said, according to his prepared remarks.
The governor said his amended fiscal 2023 and fiscal 2024 budgets devote an additional $1.9 billion to education and fully fund the Quality Basic Education Formula. Additionally, he touted his plan to raise teacher pay by $2,000.
The governor proposed more than $4.5 million in loan repayment programs to increase the number of healthcare workers in Georgia. He also said he wants to spend $1.7 million to create an additional 102 residency slots.
Kemp said the state will spend $52 million to support the Georgia Pathways to Coverage program “and connect those in need to its benefits.” The program will require participants to complete 80 hours of work or volunteering to qualify for coverage.
The “program was negotiated in good faith with the federal government so that we could expand access to health insurance for those who need it the most, while also sustaining the quality of coverage,” Kemp said.
“But it was the [President Joe] Biden Administration that delayed its launch for over a year, until a judge threw out their biased objections to this innovative approach,” the governor added. “Those are the facts. When it comes to healthcare for hardworking Georgians, the Biden Administration would rather play partisan politics than get people insured and lower costs.”
Kemp said that roughly 345,000 Georgians could qualify for the Pathways program — and healthcare coverage for the first time — without any changes for those who qualify for Medicaid.
House Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, unsurprisingly lauded Kemp’s address.
“His first term as our governor saw record-breaking private-sector investments, creating more jobs for Georgians,” Burns said in a statement. “In his second term in office, we will continue to keep our economy strong and maintain our best-in-the-nation reputation for business. We will focus on issues like talent development and safe, affordable housing to meet the demands of an ever-growing workforce — one that is ready for the new jobs being created here in Georgia.”
National Federation of Independent Business State Director Hunter Loggins said the organization’s “small business members were encouraged” by the address.
“Our members were especially pleased to hear about the governor’s commitment to improving education and workforce training throughout the state,” Loggins said in a statement. “Our members say finding qualified workers is one of the biggest challenges facing them right now.”
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor