My fellow Georgians, it’s time to build” — that was newly inaugurated Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s message in his first State of the State speech Thursday in Atlanta.
Kemp said he wants to continue the economic success Georgia has seen in recent years while outlining funding for campaign promises to raise teacher pay, increase access to health care and improve the lives of rural Georgians.
“Over the last sixteen years, our state has experienced incredible growth and economic opportunity,” Kemp said, and pledged to continue to make economic issues a top priority of his administration.
In one of the only new proposals unveiled, Kemp said he would set aside $1 million in the state’s Department of Community Health budget to develop a Medicaid waiver. Kemp, who has been a frequent critic of Medicaid expansion, said in his speech that this would “expand access without expanding a broken system that fails to deliver for patients.”
A Medicaid waiver would allow Georgia to draw down federal Medicaid dollars to accomplish specific goals without wholly expanding Medicaid as provided under the Affordable Care Act.
Kemp laid out a proposal to permanently increase teacher salaries by $3,000 for all certified Georgia teachers, which he said was a “sizeable down payment” on his campaign promise to raise pay by $5,000.
Kemp also touted plans previously unveiled to allocate money to each Georgia public school for safety measures and an anti-gang task force within the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
He’s seeking $30,000 for each public school in the state — a total cost of $69 million — to enact safety measures determined at the local level. Kemp also said he plans to address mental health within schools and provide extra resources.
Kemp said he wants to put $500,000 in initial funding toward the new GBI anti-gang task force.