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Kemp highlights "unprecedented year of economic success" in 2023 State of the State Address

Kemp highlights "unprecedented year of economic success" in 2023 State of the State Address
Kemp highlights "unprecedented year of economic success" in 2023 State of the State Address 03:12

ATLANTA, Ga. (WUPA) -- Gov. Brian Kemp delivered his State of the State address on Wednesday, January 25, 2023, calling 2022 an "unprecedented year of economic success" in Georgia.

Kemp's arrival at the House Chamber inside the Gold Dome was met with applause from members of the General Assembly. During his address, he listed several monumental achievements.

"The state of our state has never been stronger or more resilient," said Kemp. "We have been named the number one state in the country for business for nine years in a row. We announced four of the largest economic development projects in the history of our state."

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp enters the state House chamber on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.  WUPA

The projects are slated to bring over 20,000 new jobs and $17 billion in investments to Rural Georgia and thousands of more jobs outside Metro Atlanta. Kemp also discussed Georgia's partial Medicaid expansion, which provides coverage to mothers for a full year after they give birth.

"To support new mothers even more, my team is proposing legislation that will allow pregnant women who qualify to receive TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits," Kemp said. He also addressed the need for more workers, housing, and healthcare. "Upwards of 345,000 Georgians could qualify for the Pathways program and healthcare coverage for the first time."

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle applauded the successes of the Kemp Administration, however, Democrats said the governor is taking too much credit for some of those achievements.

"A lot of things that he talked about, maternal mortality, we did that, right? We talk about housing; affordable housing. We're dropping a bill that says we should give tax credits to people who build affordable housing," said House Minority Leader James Beverly (D-Macon). "The governor mentioned that Georgia is the number one state to do business for nine years running, but he failed to mention that, over that same period, 10 hospitals have closed."

Democrats said they are still pushing for a full expansion of Medicaid benefits in Georgia.

"Five hundred forty-five thousand Georgians -- anticipated -- are going to lose their healthcare this year, because Medicaid is unwinding," Beverly said.

Kemp also celebrated the strides he says were made in crimefighting in the state, saying, "Here in Georgia, we will always back the blue." However, Beverly countered Kemp's assertions, saying the state is also dealing with over-policing in communities of color, plus a lack of concerns over what has been perceived as an infrastructure that has fallen behind those in other areas. 

"What do we do about building the future? How do we get high-speed rail from Atlanta to Savannah," said Beverly. "How do we incentivize the whole ecosystem, so that all of us get a chance to benefit, not just the rich and the privileged?"

Both sides said it will take a bipartisan effort to build the future.

"I want to encourage the men and women throughout this chamber to consider not just the Georgia of today, but the Georgia of generations from now," said Kemp.

The governor also shared plans for funding education, including a proposal to devote an additional $1.9 billion to education. This comes after Kemp recently proposed $2,000 teacher pay raises, bringing a total of $7,000 in raises over the past five years. 

Kemp also mentioned plans to add 5,000 teachers through certification grants. Kindergarten teacher Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, said they are thankful for the raise, but that more is needed. 

"Paraprofessionals, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, front office staff, I cannot teach my students without those employees in my building, and the teacher salary raise does not impact those members," Morgan said.

The association says that lawmakers should extend those raises beyond teachers to all school staff members.

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