How we opened Georgia for enterprise throughout Covid
A year ago, none of us could have imagined the challenges we would face as a nation. Here in Georgia – similar to the rest of the country – our economy grew rapidly, unemployment was at the lowest level in the state’s history and more Georgians found high quality and sustainable jobs.
Little did we know that a global pandemic was about to close businesses, skyrocket unemployment claims, and uproot our lives and livelihoods.
The past year has presented unforeseen, unprecedented challenges for Georgia and our citizens. In the face of a deadly pandemic, my government took decisive action early on to ensure our state had the necessary resources to fight Covid-19 and protect lives and livelihoods.
Despite the challenges of 2020, I am proud of what we were able to achieve together.
By working across parties with the State House and the Senate, we have avoided drastic cuts in our state budget and continued to fund important services.
We have fulfilled a fundamental commitment from our state government and adopted a balanced budget that reflects our priorities – health care, public safety, education and economic opportunity.
Last week my administration proposed a new budget for the remaining months of fiscal 2021 that would not include new cuts in government agencies, no vacation days, and widespread layoffs of government employees.
And I would add that there are no new taxes that can be used to pay anything.
Under the Gold Dome here in Atlanta, we have prioritized both the health and wellbeing of our employees and their paychecks.
In the heat of summer as we faced some of our toughest days battling Covid-19, it was Georgia big and small companies that took on the moment.
From craft breweries to local mattress makers to small startups – these men and women have overhauled the operation to build up the state’s PPE supply and limit our need to compete elsewhere.
It was our business community that made sure our healthcare heroes had the resources they needed to care for the most vulnerable Georgia, and when the legislature got back together we knew we had to support them.
We created a PSA Tax Credit to incentivize government production of PPE and to ensure we assist Georgia Made entrepreneurs in providing critical supplies.
During this term, my administration will propose that this program be extended to pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers. Other countries shouldn’t have a monopoly on life-saving drugs and medical supplies, and our focus is on bringing those industries and jobs back to America – and right here to Georgia.
I received a lot of criticism from all sides when I decided to reopen Georgia on the advice of our Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey. Unlike other states, we trusted our business owners and entrepreneurs to use innovation and business acumen to implement new, Covid-proof protocols to reopen their businesses, protect their customers, and keep employees on payroll.
As a small business owner and construction worker during the Great Recession, I remember talking to our family in our kitchen about how we would make ends meet. Often it was day after day, hour after hour. Often times, contractors working on the construction site had more money in my pockets than I had in my bank account.
Those hard times and memories came back in the early days of the pandemic. Hardworking Georgians struggled – not because their business had failed or because their products or services were no longer needed. They were exposed to devastation through no fault of their own due to a global pandemic.
While some disagreed with me, I know our decision to reopen safely is why many Georgia corporations lived to fight another day. Some of our larger companies, like Kia and Bridgestone, have even expanded their presence in Peach State and have had record-breaking years.
While liberal politicians in New York and elsewhere, supported by the mass media, spent the past year throwing stones at glasshouses, I am proud to report that, unlike them, Peach State has not cut its budget this year will be faced. Our unemployment rate remains below the national average, employment growth is promising and government revenues remain strong. And for an unprecedented eighth straight year, Georgia was named the No. 1 state for business by Site Selection Magazine.
In a year of coast-to-coast economic troubles, Vice President Mike Pence said best, “Georgia has helped pave the way back to a prosperous American economy.”
We still have a long way to go, but by working together I know that Georgia will continue to be the best place to live, work and raise a family.
Thanks to our methodical approach and early, decisive action, Georgia is open to business.
Brian Kemp, a Republican, is the governor of Georgia.