ATLANTA (WSAV) — In his State of the State address Thursday, Gov. Brian Kemp reflected on the trying year Georgia faced and outlined his priorities for the one ahead.
He held a moment of silence for those who lost their lives to COVID-19 in the Peach State and across the nation.
“Despite incredible loss and unprecedented challenges, Georgia is still standing,” Kemp said, adding, “This state, while battered, is not broken. A better, brighter future is right around the corner.”
The first-term Republican said his top focus for 2021 will be on pandemic recovery, health care and education.
“The budgets my administration will propose in the coming days will include no new cuts to state agencies and departments, no furloughs, no widespread layoffs to state employees,” Kemp said, “and might I add, no new taxes to pay for it all.”
Despite the pandemic, he said Georgia is OK with the state’s rainy day emergency fund.
“At a time in our nation’s history when jobless claims have skyrocketed, our unemployment rate in Georgia sits at 5.7%, well below the national average,” he said.
Kemp announced a plan to provide a one-time, $1,000 bonus payment to every K-12 public-school teacher and school-level staff member in the state.
“We were not sure what Gov. Kemp would include for public education in his State of the State address this morning,” stated Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Association of Educators.
“While it can never truly reward them for going above and beyond, it will certainly help offset whatever hardships they and their families have had or continue to face,” she added.
Kemp’s budget also includes $40 million to help rural communities.
“This pandemic highlighted many challenges for communities outside metro Atlanta,” he said, “but none more so than the critical need for high speed internet access for better health care and educational outcomes, for job opportunities and something as simple as keeping in touch with loved ones.”
And the governor says he wants to continue keeping Georgia safe, tackling human trafficking and gangs.
“Our state cannot prosper or reap a good harvest without safe safe communities, safe streets and safe families,” he said.
Lawmakers returned to the Georgia State Capitol on Monday and have 40 legislative days to balance the budget.
Read Kemp’s address as prepared for delivery: