ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp delivered his third State of the State address Thursday morning as he talked about the challenges Georgia faced in 2020 and his plans for 2021.
Channel 2′s Richard Elliot attended the address at the State Capitol, where Kemp was joined by his staff, members of the Georgia legislature and special guests.
It was the longest speech of the governor’s time in office. He discussed all that has happened since his 2020 address and how he hopes to move Georgia forward in 2021.
“These have been dark times for our state, for our country and for the nation. We have overcome much and together, we can now see the light at the end of this tunnel,” Kemp said.
The governor didn’t say the state of Georgia is good, instead he described Georgia as resilient in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Yes, we still have challenges ahead, a virus to beat, and economy to rebuild and restore, but my fellow Georgians, the state of the state is resilient and we will endure,” he said.
Kemp defended his decision to reopen Georgia’s economy early and said the move is the main reason the state’s unemployment numbers are lower and the economy is better compared to other states.
“From the beginning of this pandemic, I stressed the need to balance those two priorities: the health and well being of our people, and their ability to put food on the table for them and their families,” he said.
Kemp proposed a $27.2 billion budget includes no tax increases, no state furloughs and no additional budget cuts after tough ones in 2020.
The governor said he wants to restore some of those cuts taken from education and give each school district a supplement he expects will go to every teacher and school employee.
Kemp also acknowledged the challenges in getting out vaccines to where they’re needed, but promised that the process will get better.
“Thanks to the efforts of Operation warp speed, we have a miracle of modern science that is quickly being administered with over 283,000 Georgians getting vaccinated as of yesterday.”
“He threw out the number today 283,000 reasons to be hopeful, but there are 11,803 Georgians who have lost their lives through this pandemic,” Georgia Rep. James Beverly said.
In the response, Georgia Democrats such as Beverly and State Sen. Gloria Butler criticized Kemp’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“At no time in our history has healthcare and the economy been more tied together. The COVID pandemic has shown a spotlight on this,” Butler said.
The Democrats said they will continue to push for full Medicaid expansion to cover those struggling with the pandemic.
“Our hospitals are bursting at the seams. Our healthcare workers are strained. Our ability to get the vaccine in arms of Georgians have been slow,” Butler said.