SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Georgia Governor Brian Kemp gave his second State of the State address Thursday. The governor spoke for about 30 minutes before state lawmakers and residents.
“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Kemp said during his 2020 State of the State. “But there’s still more work to be done. As your Governor, I have been honored to travel this great state, and everywhere I go, I start by saying the same thing: “It is a great time to be a Georgian, don’t you agree?"
Governor Kemp, during his speech highlighted, the unemployment rate that is just 3.3 percent, the lowest in Georgia history. He says in the past 12 months the state has added 64,000 private sector jobs and of the 371 economic development projects announced in 2019, 79 percent were outside of Atlanta. Governor Kemp says he feels the State of the State is strong and it’s only just beginning.
Another thing he addressed was his commitment to education. The governor said he plans to fully fund the Quality Basic Education fund and he also says his budget includes plans to raise teacher salaries again by $2,000 to carry out his campaign promise.
Governor Kemp also mentioned he wants to reform healthcare to put families first, crack down on gang violence and fight against human trafficking.
A big moment during the State of the State address Thursday was dedicated to Senator Johnny Isakson. The governor committed to creating the Johnny Isakson Professorship for Parkinson’s Research at the University of Georgia. The governor hopes this position will bring advancement to treatment, quality of life and eventually a cure.
The governor also committed to advance state adoption laws. This is something the Savannah/Chatham CASA were exited to hear.
"Really excited that that the Governor's just talking about foster care at all because what we need is this to be a main thing that Georgia is talking about,” said Kate Blair, executive director for Savannah/ Chatham Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children. “What will bring more adoptive parents is the knowledge that there are children ready to be adopted. There's over 1,100 children in the state of Georgia that are eligible for adoption today."
The governor wants to help make adoption easier for families. To do that he proposed lowering the adoption parent age to 21, increasing the tax credit by three times and creating a commission to look at the system. In an exclusive sit down with WTOC earlier this month he explained why it's important. "We really value life at all stages and that's one thing that makes us just a great state as I said earlier,” explained Governor Kemp. “So that is making sure that we're helping these foster kids that we're working to make adoption better in our state, more streamlined easier for people to use and encouraging people to do that.” Kate Blair is the executive director of Savannah Chatham County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA.) They work directly with children in foster care. She's hopeful the creation of a commission will help.
"The commission is what I’m most excited about. The system in Georgia is incredibly overburdened that’s why CASA exists to begin with is that the system is overburdened,” said Kate Blair, executive director of Savannah/Chatham CASA. “We have case workers that are working upwards of 30-40 cases having to visit all of those children every month do all of the paperwork. It's just the system is not working. We need to invest resources in the system." Additionally, Kate Blair is an adoptive parent. She feels increasing the tax credit from $2,000 to $6,000 is a big deal. She says the federal tax credit helped her family. "It helped when we had additional healthcare costs,” explained Blair. “We had that money in our pocket that we could address healthcare needs of our new children and so I think it's incredibly important." Kate Blair says the governors commitments to adoption Thursday are a step in the right direction they don’t solve all the problems. She hopes more reform is coming, but is glad it's a conversation happening at the statehouse.
If you want to read a transcript of the Governor’s State of the State address you can click here.