‘The best state for opportunity’: Kemp signs Ga. budget
ELLABELL, Ga. - Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday signed the Fiscal Year 2024 budget on the site of the Hyundai Metaplant in Bryan County.
“There is a lot of good stuff in this budget to talk about,” Kemp said. “It’s important that Georgians know we’re delivering on our promises.”
Georgia’s budget pays to educate 1.75 million K-12 students and 465,000 college students, house 48,000 state prisoners, pave 18,000 miles of highways and care for more than 200,000 people who are mentally ill, developmentally disabled or addicted to drugs or alcohol.
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Among other provisions, the budget will pay full tuition for all college students receiving a HOPE Scholarship while boosting pay for all state and university employees and public school teachers.
The budget cuts teaching by about $66 million, out of a roughly $9 billion University System of Georgia budget. Lawmakers said universities should cover the shortfall with some of their roughly $500 million in cash on hand.
The budget will again give $500 bonuses for 54,000 retirees in the state Employees Retirement System. Retirees in that plan have not received regular cost-of-living increases.
The budget will also pay for home services for 500 more people with intellectual, developmental, or physical disabilities — up from the 250 originally proposed by Kemp. The state has thousands on a waiting list for such services.
Kemp also signed House Bill 408, extending some tax exemptions for economic development projects.
What he said
Here’s an excerpt from the governor’s remarks at the budget-signing ceremony:
For nine years in a row, Georgia has been named the number one state to do business.
That’s not just by chance. It’s because we’re willing to make the tough choices when it matters most, it’s because of our partnership and pro-business approach, it’s because we budget wisely and carefully, and it’s especially because of the resilience of hardworking Georgians.
And because of all those virtues and more, we have more people working in our state than ever before.
Our unemployment rate is at an incredible 3.1 percent.
We beat every state record in commerce and trade.
And in less than 365 days, we announced four of the largest economic development projects in Georgia history!
The largest of those projects is taking place right here where we’re standing, thanks to Hyundai’s decision to bring 8,100 jobs and over $5.54 billion in investment to this region.
You’ve seen a small portion of all the activity going on here for that project today, and soon enough, a state-of-the-art facility unlike any other will stand on this ground. But Hyundai’s positive impact goes even farther than this project and the four counties it directly affects. Suppliers for this future plant are also moving to Georgia, and combined, they’ve already announced over 4,500 new jobs and roughly $1.96 billion in investment!
That’s nearly double the original estimate we had for investment from off-site suppliers, all because Hyundai chose Georgia.
And those figures don’t even include the joint venture Hyundai has with SK On in Bartow County for an EV battery facility, which will bring a further 3,500 new jobs and roughly $5 billion in investment to our state.
Transformational projects like those we’ve announced over the past two years are great examples of why we need HB 408.
That bill extends the sales and use tax exemption for certain projects designated as competitive projects of regional significance, and I’m proud to say that most of the communities that have benefited from this tool are located outside of metro Atlanta.
So, I want to thank the legislators who helped get this bill across the finish line, including: Representative Bruce Williamson for introducing the legislation; his co-sponsors, Representatives Shaw Blackmon and Matt Gambill; and Senator Chuck Hufstetler for carrying this bill in the Senate.
Thanks to their efforts, Georgia remains a top competitor for companies looking to locate or expand their operations.
The budget I will sign this afternoon will also help us remain the best state for opportunity.
HB 19 funds our priorities and places our state on strong financial footing, keeping us on the road of economic growth even while policies coming out of Washington, D.C. push the country closer to recession.
In order to keep us the No. 1 state for business, we’re investing in our workforce pipeline, from the classroom to the boardroom. That includes support for our hardworking educators and investments in our schools. Between the budget I will sign today and the AFY23 budget I signed earlier this year, we’re putting more money toward education than ever before in state history!
This budget fully funds our schools and provides $26.9 million to increase the number of counselors who help our students overcome personal challenges and support their success.
And I’m proud to say that by the end of my first term, we were able to raise pay for Georgia’s teachers by a total of $5,000. Today, the budget I’ll sign will add another $2,000 pay raise on top of that. No other General Assembly or governor has raised teacher salaries by so much, so quickly in state history.
We’re also making history by restoring the HOPE Scholarship and Grant programs to their full promise of covering 100 percent of tuition at all public university and technical college institutions.
In short, this budget improves both the quality of and access to education across the board.
But this budget doesn’t only make our classrooms and workforce better, it also makes our communities safer and funds resources in the fight against street gangs and criminals.
Earlier this week, the nation joined us in witnessing the bravery of Georgia’s law enforcement on all levels who responded forcefully to the incident in our capital city.
I want to thank Colonel Chris Wright and our great state Troopers, Director Mike Register and the entire team at the GBI, and our other state public safety officers who helped local law enforcement in Atlanta and Cobb County on Wednesday. Let’s give them a hand!
We cannot thank them and our other law enforcement enough for what they do. That’s why I’m thankful the FY24 budget gives eligible state law enforcement officers a $6,000 pay raise on top of the $5,000 pay raise included in this current fiscal year’s budget, ensuring we remain competitive in attracting top-tier talent into careers of service.
With this budget, we’re also further building on the work Marty, the GRACE Commission, and our public safety partners have accomplished in the fight against human trafficking.
In 2019, we launched the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit in Attorney General Chris Carr’s Office. That Unit has a 100 percent conviction rate, and in the past year, alone, they’ve rescued 116 victims.
With funds included in HB 19, we’re adding a new analyst position to that prosecution unit to go after even more of these criminals, especially those who operate in illicit massage parlors. This is just another measure to further our ongoing efforts in the fight against human trafficking.
We’re also not resting on our laurels when it comes to making Georgia a healthier place to live, work, and raise a family.
Bringing innovative solutions to our healthcare system has always been a top priority of my administration. That’s why this budget includes $52 million in funding to help us launch the Georgia Pathways to Coverage program.
This common-sense, sustainable approach will offer Medicaid to tens of thousands of able-bodied, low-income Georgians who would not otherwise qualify, and our team is hard at work to ensure we successfully launch that program on July 1 of this year.
And to make sure Georgians in every part of the state have quality care, including in our rural communities, we’re investing in our healthcare workforce. Last week I signed SB 246, which establishes a student loan repayment program for certain nursing instructors, helping us address the shortage of qualified nursing educators and growing the pipeline for this high-need profession.
This budget provides the funding for that program, and I look forward to its impact.
These are just a handful of the benefits Georgians will soon see because of this budget. So, again, I want to thank everyone here and elsewhere who helped make these investments possible.
Georgia continues to be the best state to live, work, and raise a family, because we have prioritized education, public safety, healthcare, and economic development, even in the face of truly unprecedented times.
Today’s legislation builds on those priorities to make us even stronger and more prosperous.
So, let’s get to signing!
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