Op-Ed | Immediate Action for A Strong Economic Recovery

Immediate Action for A Strong Economic Recovery
By Chris Clark, President & CEO, Georgia Chamber of Commerce

In 2008, I was called to Governor Perdue’s office, given the responsibility of Commissioner for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and immediately challenged to build a budget that would cut spending by 40%. Like all agency heads during the early days of the Great Recession, we worked hard to steward the public dollars while protecting employees, citizens, and in our case, Georgia’s incredible environment. And not only did we survive, we also laid a foundation for the future.

A few years later, working closely with Governor Deal and the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Georgia Chamber spent a year making recommendations to cut taxes and regulations that would spur the economic recovery. This action led to Georgia being named the best place to do business for seven consecutive years.

Today, Governor Kemp, agency heads and the general assembly must compress that 4-year timeframe into a few months. They must cut state spending when people need government most, while simultaneously finding ways to ignite private sector job creation and unlock the power of free enterprise. It is an unenviable position that can result in unintended consequences. Some will seek to grow the economy through renewed focus on innovation, creativity, and small business start-ups. Others will seek to burden companies with higher taxes or more regulations. But, in the end, the clear and objective perspectives of our leaders will be what guide us through recovery.

The general assembly has taken important steps in recent years to expand Georgia’s tax base which will pay dividends in the long term. Now, we should focus on improving the growth opportunities for companies and getting people back to work. So, what should we do to unleash the power of Georgia ingenuity and improve the resiliency of Georgia corporations?

The Georgia Chamber is proud to stand in support of effective legislation that will foster a recoverable economic environment leading to a stronger and more resilient future. Priorities for the remaining 2020 Legislative Session include:

  • Legal Liability Protections – The state must enact strong and sure safe harbors related to COVID-19 that protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits which result in the single greatest deterrent to our recovering business climate. Our healthcare systems have been strained and the idea of “global pandemic” is now a full-on reality. Add these factors to being recently named the 9th worst state in the nation for judicial liability, and we must move quickly to create immediate liability protections.
  • Hate Crimes Legislation – As Georgia marches to a brighter, more equal future, positive change through effective hate crimes legislation is, without a doubt one, of the most critically needed steps. Our state must take a stand against racial inequality and walk toward inclusion, change and a better Georgia. Visit passhatecrimesga.com to learn more.
  • Cybersecurity and Data Protection – As innovation accelerates, it offers opportunities as well as significant risks to an economy that shifts to deeper digital integration. Legislation is needed to protect businesses from hackers, strengthen our infrastructure to reach that last-mile, and protect our rural businesses from isolation and assured demise. Licensure Flexibility – Recognizing licensed healthcare professionals across state lines, especially in today’s post-COVID economy, is critical to our system’s ability to serve and preserve the well-being of all Georgians. Allowing flexibility to employ licensed professionals from other states in critical-need areas will expedite economic recovery and get more Georgians back to work.
  • Preservation of Entertainment Tax Credits – As one of Georgia’s most rapidly growing industries, the film and entertainment sector employs tens of thousands of citizens locally and generates $9.5 billion in economic impact. For job creation, retention and stability, the preservation of these tax credits is an absolute must for the thousands of small businesses and contractors that support this industry around the state.
  • Reconstitution of the Freight & Logistics Commission and Private Financing of Infrastructure Committee – Deemed one of the most essential services during our global pandemic, the freight & logistics industry has proven to be one of the most critical needs in our state and one of the most important components to supply chain, manufacturing, agriculture and other key industries. The reconstitution of this commission to lead and manage the growth of this vital sector will be imperative to the state’s collective economic recover. Roads must be maintained, new roads built, public transit infused with new ideas and workable plans derived and implemented. Continued focus on private financing of infrastructure to examine where and how these projects get done is paramount to our collective future.

As the session reconvenes, we look for our leaders to consider these key priorities and how each one builds on the other to create a more resilient economy with solid and learned foundations that guide us to a brighter future.

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