At the Georgia Chamber’s Eggs and Issues Breakfast Wednesday morning, state leaders signaled the upcoming legislative session would focus on economic issues like transit, education and developing rural Georgia.
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp said his first state budget would include a “historic and well-deserved pay raise” for teachers, following through on a campaign promise to boost the competitiveness of salaries for educators.
Also included will be $69 million for a one-time school security grant for Georgia’s public schools, plans for mental health counselors in schools and the creation of a special gang task force within the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Kemp said it’s clear to him the state is on a solid economic footing, but his job is not to be complacent with the way things are.
“Let’s pick up a hammer and grab some nails,” Kemp said. “It’s time to start building on this solid foundation poured by those who came before us.”
The governor will outline more of his legislative and budgetary priorities at the State of the State address Thursday.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms gave the opening remarks at the breakfast, highlighting the economic and political partnerships the city and state enjoy.
“The city of Atlanta has had a great relationship with the state of Georgia over the last several years and I see no reason to stop that now,” she said.
Republican Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan, who presides over the state senate, also spoke about education as an important priority for his chamber.
“I want Georgia to lead on the big issues that other states struggle finding solutions for like health care, education and transportation,” he said. “I want every community and every citizen, regardless of their political party, to wake up every day in Georgia and realize our best days are in front of us.”
Republican House Speaker David Ralston opened his remarks with a comment about the bipartisan seating chart in his chamber, and indicated the house would also focus on so-called “pocketbook” issues more than divisive social issues.
Ralston said transportation, school security and making sure rural Georgia sees economic prosperity will be topics tackled by lawmakers.
The Georgia chamber is also interested in strengthening rural Georgia, announcing their 2019 “Recommendations For A Rural Renaissance” that complements work the House Rural Development Council has been doing.
Speaking to reporters after the breakfast, Georgia Chamber CEO Chris Clark also said one thing his group is glad will not be a priority is so-called religious liberty legislation, especially in light of the Super Bowl LIII being hosted here.
“With the whole world coming to Atlanta in the next two weeks, more cameras here than anywhere else in the world…we don’t need to distract,” Clark said. “We need to tell our story and not get bogged down in the side issues.”
The budget is expected to be released Thursday after Kemp delivers his State of the State address.