By Chris Clark, President & CEO, Georgia Chamber of Commerce
After an unprecedented year of business development with over $21 billion of investment from 348 projects in 2022, Governor Kemp, Lt Governor Jones, Speaker Burns, and the Georgia General Assembly have proven they are dedicated to continuing that trend in 2023.
During the 40-day legislative session, the Georgia Chamber worked on over 350 bills. Ultimately, our Government Affairs Council, the largest business advocacy organization in the country, chose to support bills that would positively impact Georgia’s economy and growing workforce. Highlights of those bills include personal income and property tax relief; heightened public safety measures for our communities and healthcare facilities; increased penalties for damages to our critical infrastructure; expanded access to education and literacy resources for our future workforce; and the initial policy framework to build out Georgia’s growing electric vehicle support systems.
But with growing global economic uncertainty, a rising and disruptive China, increased competition from other states, and a federal tax system that punishes business, we know there is still much work to be done to ensure we can sustain high-quality growth that ensures Georgians in every corner of the state have access to high paying jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. Several important issues including workforce housing, freight and logistics, and lawsuit abuse relief fell short this session.
Why are these issues vital for a New Georgia Economy? To start, 67% of Georgia small business owners and corporate CEOs report a lack of affordable workforce housing as the top issue affecting our ability to attract and maintain a competitive workforce. For Georgia to remain the best place to live, work, and raise a family, we must first ensure that our children can live in the communities where they are employed. Current regulatory fees, restrictive local zoning mandates, and skyrocketing interest rates are keeping nearly 1.4 million Georgia families from realizing the dream of home ownership. House Bill 514 and House Bill 517 aimed to cut through burdensome government regulations and streamline workforce housing standards. These bills would have created new methods for private, state, and local entities to work toward creating a housing environment that encourages the kind of development the market is demanding. Unfortunately, these bills failed to receive final passage and will be up for consideration during the 2024 session. We will continue to work closely with leaders around the state to address these growing issues in the midst of higher inflation.
Another priority for Georgia business is to develop long-term strategies to improve supply chain management. Projections show that by the year 2050, demand for freight flow in Georgia will increase by 92%. It is vital that we take measures now to prepare our infrastructure to meet that demand. Several opportunities to create technology and horizontal solutions must be a priority for 2024 and beyond. Without this innovation and investment, Georgia citizens will face growing delays and unsafe motorways.
Most disappointing was the failure to act to alleviate lawsuit abuse by passing common-sense civil justice reform. Georgia’s legal climate has consistently been ranked among the worst in the nation because of nuclear jury verdicts and a lack of simple reforms bringing the state in line with others across the country. That abuse has resulted in higher insurance rates and fewer doctors in our most disadvantaged communities. The Chamber will continue to work to pursue a more fair and balanced legal environment to provide much-needed relief to Georgia small business owners and families.
Finally, as we enter the interim period between legislative sessions, we will work around the clock with Governor Kemp’s office, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Georgia Department of Revenue, members of the general assembly, and other partners to review our state’s economic development and tax incentive policies. These tools have been critical in our ability to attract and retain record-breaking investments that have made us the buckle of the battery belt. Rural communities rely on these policies to level the playing field against unfavorable federal tax policy and a growing focus of other states to offer more lucrative incentives to attract expansions, new business, and to bolster small businesses. Our hope is to strengthen our policies to insulate Georgia from inflation and a global economic downturn. Georgia citizens have consistently said that opportunities for quality jobs are their top priority, and we are determined to remain the Best State to Do Business!
Prioritizing policies that support our business community benefits not only the companies who choose to operate here but the millions of people who call the Peach State home. We look forward to working alongside our elected officials to continue making Georgia the best place to live, work, pray, and play.
To learn more about priorities from the 2023 session, visit gachamber.com/legislative-priorities.