(The Center Square) — Gov. Brian Kemp took a victory lap during his second inauguration, laying out a conservative agenda that includes a pay raise for state employees and returns money to taxpayers.
“Four years ago, I made this promise to the people of our great state: Whether you voted for me or not, I was [going to] work hard every day to put you and your families first,” the Republican Kemp, who cruised to re-election in November, said during a Thursday morning speech. “And while a lot has changed and once-in-a-lifetime events have tested all of us, my commitment to the people of this state has not wavered.
“We may disagree on policy or politics. We may not see eye-to-eye on important issues facing our state,” Kemp said. “There may be another pandemic, another contentious election or another natural disaster. But my promise to you today remains the same that it was then. If tomorrow morning, God sends us another struggle, I will roll up my sleeves and go to work.”
Kemp enters his second term sitting in the catbird seat. The state is flush with cash thanks to robust tax collections and federal pandemic relief dollars flowing into the state’s coffers.
The governor plans to unveil his budget proposal on Friday but promised it would make historic investments in schools and safety while cutting taxes and returning “billions” to taxpayers, including $1.1 billion for a one-time homeowner property tax relief grant and $1 billion in income tax refunds.
It is likely to include a $2,000 pay raise for all state employees, including state law enforcement and certified K-12 personnel. The budget will include $150 million in one-time grants to help the state’s more than 9,000 paraprofessionals become certified teachers and for school districts statewide to address hot-button issues such as learning loss and security.
“Over the next four years, we’re going to be focused on growing Georgia, not growing government,” Kemp said.
“…These proposals will build on the conservative budgeting that has been a hallmark of leadership in this state for over 20 years and continue to put Georgia on a stable path to greater prosperity, growth and opportunity,” the governor added. “They will also highlight how making tough decisions during tough times pays off in the long run.”
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor