Teachers and state employees would receive $2,000 raises under the budget plan Gov. Brian Kemp will lay out for lawmakers.
Kemp made the announcement Thursday in his inaugural address at the Georgia State University Convocation Center.
The proposed pay raises come after Kemp and lawmakers hiked state employee salaries $5,000 last year to help combat rampant turnover in many agencies. Teachers received $2,000 raises from the state, which helps fund local K-12 education in Georgia.
The governor said the raises are needed to help keep top staffers from leaving state government.
“Any business or organization is only as good as its people, and I am so proud of everything the public servants throughout our state have done and accomplished over the last few years,” he said. “But the truth is high turnover and pandemic burnout have made tough jobs even harder.
“From the classroom to the state patrol, if we want to keep good people in jobs critical to the safety and well-being of our children, our communities and our state as a whole, we must be willing to be competitive with state salaries.”
In recent years low salaries in some departments — such as those dealing with corrections and child welfare — and the availability of higher-paying private-sector positions have made agencies desperate to hold on to staffers. Kemp and lawmakers, in turn, have generally accepted that the state has to pay higher salaries to keep workers, something that took a back seat for years during and following the Great Recession.
Kemp said his budget proposal — which legislative committees will begin considering next week — will include more than $150 million in grants to local school districts to address security concerns, programs to aid children who fell behind during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to help more school paraprofessionals become teachers.
The governor also reiterated he wants to use $2 billion from the state surplus for income and property tax rebates because, he said, “that’s your money, not the government’s.”
As he starts his second term, Kemp has a lot of financial flexibility because the state has been awash with tax money.
After all the bills were paid and agencies returned leftover funds, the state’s surplus for fiscal 2022, which ended June 30, was about $6.6 billion, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in September.
In the first five months of this fiscal year, tax collections were up 6.2%, or $742 million, over the record-breaking fiscal 2022 numbers, despite a suspension of the gas tax that lowered revenue by $150 million to $170 million a month.
State income tax collections have been on the rise since shortly after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Congress first passed massive federal aid spending. Inflation has helped boost sales tax collections, with goods costing more and the taxes on them rising, and wages have also increased as unemployment hit record lows and businesses scrambled to fill job openings.
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