Gov. Brian Kemp

Gov. Brian Kemp vowed Wednesday to fulfill a pledge he made on the campaign trail by doubling down on a tax rebate the General Assembly passed last year.

Kemp, who won reelection in November, told Georgia business and political leaders he will seek another $1 billion state income tax rebate. In addition to that, he will propose a second $1 billion rebate of property taxes Georgians pay to their local governments, which should result in a check of about $500 to each taxpayer.

“This is one-time property tax relief,” the governor said during the annual Eggs & Issues breakfast the Georgia Chamber of Commerce sponsors during the first week of each legislative session. “That will help working families offset property taxes.”

This year’s round of tax relief would come from a huge $6.6 billion budget surplus the state has built up in recent years.

“Instead of spending [the surplus] on big government programs … we’re going to put it back in [taxpayers’] pockets,” Kemp said.

Kemp, who will be sworn in for a second term on Thursday, touted his administration’s economic accomplishments during his first four years in office, including nearly $50 billion in investment that has created 130,000 jobs.

The latest jobs announcement came Wednesday morning when Korean solar panel manufacturer Hanwha Qcells unveiled plans to invest $2.5 billion to expand an existing manufacturing plant in Dalton and build a new facility in Cartersville. The expansion is expected to create 2,500 jobs.

Like the Qcells announcement, many economic development projects the state landed during Kemp’s first term are generating jobs in rural Georgia. Last year alone, rural communities received an injection of $8.67 billion. Nearly all of those new jobs will pay more than the average salary in the affected county, Kemp said.

“You have economic opportunity no matter where you live,” he said.

Kemp’s tax rebate proposals are sure to get pushback from legislative Democrats and public policy groups that argue the state should use the budget surplus to improve the quality of education and health care.

“Modest, one-time payments to tax filers and property owners may provide some short-term relief,” said Danny Kanso, senior fiscal analyst for the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. “But the state must do more to make long-lasting investments in our people by centering benefits on those experiencing the greatest levels of hardship – low- and middle-income Georgians.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, Kyle Wingfield, president and CEO of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, said the state should accelerate a reduction in income tax rates set to take effect next year rather than lean on one-time tax relief measures.

The breakfast audience at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta also heard from newly elected Lt. Gov. Burt Jones and state Rep. Jon Burns, elected by House members Monday to succeed the late David Ralston as speaker of the Georgia House.

Jones said one of his top priorities will be lending support to Kemp’s plans to crack down on street gangs and repeat violent offenders.

“When people don’t feel safe about the environment they’re In, that’s bad for business,” Jones said.

Burns said he will seek to build on Ralston’s signature accomplishment from last year’s General Assembly session, passage of a comprehensive overhaul of Georgia’s mental health-care delivery system.

“It’s not a one-year deal,” Burns said of the 2022 mental health bill. “We will continue to build on that.”

Burns also announced he will create an oversight committee in the House to coordinate the work several standing committees have been doing to improve the quality of health care in Georgia. Rep. Butch Parrish, R-Swainsboro, who has focused much of his work in the House on health policy, will chair the new committee.

Wednesday’s Eggs & Issues breakfast included a video tribute to Ralston, who died in November after serving a dozen years as House speaker.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Dave Williams | Capitol Beat

Dave Williams is the Bureau Chief of Capitol Beat News Service.