For The Record

Kemp to push Georgia lawmakers to OK income and property tax breaks, bar local zoning standards

By: - January 11, 2023 5:09 pm

Gov. Brian Kemp, left, and Georgia Chamber of Commerce CEO Chis Clark attend the 2023 Eggs & Issues event where the Republican governor announced plans for property and income tax relief and proposals to address a workforce housing shortage. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

Gov. Brian Kemp unveiled plans Wednesday to provide Georgians a $1.6 billion tax refund, relax local housing rules to attract first-time home buyers and pull money from reserves to restore funding lost during a 2022 suspension of state gas taxes.

The Republican governor outlined his legislative priorities before more than 2,000 corporate leaders and elected officials attending the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s annual Eggs & Issues breakfast. Kemp spoke about his legislative goals as he sought support from two new leaders in the state House and Senate, who also pledged to work with him as he embarks on his second-term agenda.

After a record fiscal year of $21 billion in corporate investment announcements, Kemp said he aims to maintain the state’s strong reputation with the business community.

The governor said he plans to build up starter home inventory by offering financial assistance for workforce housing and easing local zoning restrictions that homebuilders claim drive up costs.

The governor said he plans to give Georgians who file income taxes another $1.6 billion in refunds, $250 if they file individually and $500 if they file jointly. 

Another $1 billion from reserves would be used for a one-time property tax grant that will provide about a $500 tax break to the average homeowner.

“Not all governments are rolling the millage rate back to completely offset the property tax,” Kemp said during the event held at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta. “And 60% of Americans right now are living paycheck to paycheck. So when something like that happens, it really, really puts a burden on working Georgians.”

Kemp said his budget proposal will include taking $1 billion from the state’s record-high rainy day fund to replenish the money lost while the gas tax was suspended over the last year.

“We’ve been open in our state when others didn’t want us to be and our economy’s done incredible,” he said. “We’re going to backfill the infrastructure transportation money that was lost by suspending the gas tax and make that whole so we continue to keep our freight and logistics, congested transportation projects, roads, bridges and other things going. 

“Instead of spending it on new government programs, and bigger government, we’re gonna put that money back in your pocket,” Kemp said.

Kemp said the state is ready to provide a large source of funding to build more affordable houses for people beginning their professional careers, but it will also require more city and county officials to relax some of the zoning standards that homebuilders claim are making housing too expensive. 

A House legislative study committee spent the fall examining ways to address the lack of affordable housing in the state for renters, entry-level homeowners and middle-class families, who struggle finding houses priced under $300,000.

“I think there’s members of the General Assembly and others that are getting frustrated that that collaboration doesn’t happen,” Kemp said. “You’re gonna have a top-down approach to that versus a bottom up. And I just personally think it would be better for us all to work together.”

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Georgia Chamber CEO and president Chris Clark said that even though Georgia is at the top of the nation for business development, the biggest challenge is to address a severe shortage of workers that need to be filled over the next several decades. The state estimates that 50,000 new manufacturing jobs will come on line in the next decade. 

The business chamber supports efforts by the state and local governments to provide more workforce housing and to provide more resources for high school career academies and other workforce development programs, he said.

“I talked with a major employer last year and asked what’s your problem and he said I can’t find anybody to work here and if I could I couldn’t find anywhere for them to live,” Clark said.

The 2023 Legislative session is also the first time that newly elected Lt. Gov. Burt Jones will head the Senate while Rep. Jon Burns takes over as House speaker from the late David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican who died last November after 12 years heading the chamber.

Jones, a former state senator, said he is also committed to expanding educational opportunities through career academies, the state’s technical colleges, and universities to prepare the state to have enough qualified workers.

He also said he plans for his chamber to pass legislation that targets repeat offenders and gangs as a key focus of crime prevention. Jones presented his plan to end Georgia’s cash bail system, which allows those unable to afford bail to avoid extended time in jail while their case moves through the court system.

“When you get crime around particularly in the city of Atlanta, whether it’s Savannah or Columbus, wherever, when you get people who don’t feel safe about the environment, that’s bad for business and there’s a ripple effect,” Jones said.

Speaker Burns said he would follow Ralston’s example by focusing on improving mental health reform and providing better health care for Georgians.

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.

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