Georgia begins the New Year with a number of amazing successes. During the last 12 months, both the Braves and the Dawgs have won national championships, and the Hawks have gone further in the playoffs than they ever have before.
Georgia is winning. We’re the fifth best state in fewest jobs lost during COVID, and the fifth best state in jobs regained. We have record low unemployment. Even better, Georgia won a record number of investments in new jobs and new economic development projects last year, up 46% above the last record.
Georgia has grown 25% over the last decade, adding 2.7 million people. The ATL is the busiest airport in the world, bringing in $82 billion a year; and Savannah is the fourth busiest port in the U.S., bringing in $106 billion a year. Atlanta is now being called the “Technology Capitol of the East,” and Augusta is now the “Cyber Capitol of the Nation.”
And for the ninth year in a row, Georgia has been the Best State in the Nation to do Business In.
Georgia’s per capita state taxes are next to the lowest in the nation, and we have the second-best Bond Rating. Our public schools are now posting record SAT, ACT, K12 scores and graduation rates, and we are one of only two states that have three “top-20” universities (UGA, GA Tech and Emory).
I believe the biggest initiatives this year will be the continuation of the teacher pay increase the governor promised, as well as for troopers. He also promised to refund some $1.6 billion back to the taxpayers. There will also be a big push in mental health, as well as a renewed effort to combat crime. He also promised to fully fund public education, as well as restore the austerity cuts caused by COVID. But I’m particularly pleased that the governor has proposed to eliminate the retired military income tax, an initiative I’ve been working on for seven years. Georgia is one of only eight states that fully taxes military retirement income. Since all of our neighbors do not tax their retirement income, we’re constantly losing our talented service members to these sister states.
To that point, I am working on two more military friendly bills that the Pentagon is requesting; one for military spouse licensures, and another for military children. I am also working on a licensed counselors bill. In total, I have passed 27 bills in seven years, as well as 57 resolutions, mostly to honor local leaders.
When I ran for office seven years ago, I promised to bring good-paying jobs to Newton and Morgan counties. With the advent of Takeda, Facebook, Cinelease, the new SK Semiconductor Plant, the new Battery Resourcers plant, and, of course, Rivian, this has obviously occurred.
I realize there is some recent opposition to at least one of these projects, which is curious, since the Stanton Springs mega-site has been around for decades. But I also know, from talking to thousands of my constituents, that parents want their children to have good-paying jobs here at home, so they don’t have to move to the city to raise their families. That is why my campaign promise was, “I want our children to have the quality jobs to raise their children back here … back home.” Gov. Kemp has done that, bringing good-paying, clean, high-tech jobs to our community.
I rarely delve into national politics, but as the president just smeared Georgia in his recent visit this week, I feel that I must opine.
The president’s incoherent attacks have already earned him “four Pinocchio’s” from both the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post for his many departures from reality. It is easier to vote in Georgia than in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and his own home state of Delaware. Far from being suppressed, more Georgian minorities are voting now than ever before. In fact, as a percentage, more minorities are voting in Georgia than many of those northeastern states. Furthermore, 80% of the nation supports voter ID. The state law we passed makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat.
With worse number of COVID deaths than the previous administration, with the nation-wide lack of COVID tests, with the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal, with the alarming bellicosity of Russia and China, with our wide-open southern border, with record Inflation and the worst supply chain crisis in decades, you would think the President would have better things to do than to come to Georgia and lecture us the day after we won the national championship.
Indeed, it is very telling that Stacey Abrams declined to be seen with the President whose approval ratings have plummeted to a dismal 33%.
Rep. Dave Belton is Republican from District 112, representing Morgan and Newton counties in the Georgia House of Representatives.