Georgians say yes to a People-First Agenda

December 18, 2018
| by Guest Contributor |

The public has spoken. It’s time to invest in Georgia’s people.

Georgians struggling to make it to the middle class – not to mention stay in it – face unprecedented headwinds in today’s economy. Stagnant wages are stifling the middle class, and families are steadily losing buying power as living costs continue to rise.

The lack of access to affordable child care, health care and housing are just a few of life’s necessities that leave Georgia families hard-pressed to stay healthy and economically secure. Meanwhile, Georgia lawmakers elevate business interests and unproven economic development schemes above investments in Georgians. They do that under the dubious theory the state will spur good jobs and trickle-down economics will work its magic.

It’s time to change course and pursue a strategy that prioritizes everyday Georgians and puts all people on a path to prosperity. That’s what GBPI’s People-Powered Prosperity is all about.

In January, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute unveiled People-Powered Prosperity, a people-first economic vision for Georgia. The plan incorporates four key goals, the building blocks of a stronger and more inclusive economy: educated youth, skilled workers, thriving families and healthy communities. The path to attain those goals is through eight recommended policy solutions that will help achieve them. Those include investments to fully fund public schools, provide free college or need-based aid, bolster child care subsidies for eligible families and expand Medicaid eligibility.

Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy surveyed Georgians statewide in July to gauge public support for people-first solutions and the willingness to raise new revenue to pay for them. Georgians expressed widespread support for the proposed investments in people and spoke decisively in favor of new state revenue to cover the cost.

In 2015, state lawmakers approved nearly $1 billion in new annual revenue for a transportation tax package to help fix the state’s roads and bridges. Business leaders beat the drum for the state to invest in the crumbling transportation infrastructure. Now it’s time to give a similar boost to our human capital. People, after all, are Georgia’s most important asset. People-Powered Prosperity calls for a similar $1 billion investment in Georgians. You might find it surprising how much support for new state revenues in Georgia the Mason-Dixon poll identified.

The poll shows:

  • 76 percent of poll respondents support increasing the tobacco tax by $1, which could raise more than $400 million
  • 78 percent support a new corporate minimum tax, which could raise about $250 million
  • 88 percent support evaluating business tax breaks, which are a huge drain on the state treasury

This 2018 election season has ushered in a host of new leaders to the governor’s mansion, the state General Assembly, and all constitutional offices. They’ll need to govern with ideas and solutions to move Georgia forward. Time is short to ensure these new leaders are equipped with the best ideas and strategies that harness and maximize the potential of Georgians.

To be sure, the strength and vitality of Georgia’s economy is inextricably linked to the vitality and economic security of Georgia families. It is vital to Georgia’s interests to bolster and strengthen families so the state can thrive for the long haul.

For nearly 20 years, I traveled the state of Georgia delivering the bad news that many of Georgia’s children and families aren’t getting a fair shot at success. Georgia KIDS COUNT rankings year after year show health, education and economic indicators for the state’s children and families continue to lag.

Progress, while positive, is very slow. Generational poverty persists. Poor health infrastructure in rural parts of the state continues to go without serious attention and investment.

Factor in the structural and systemic barriers endemic in the South that historically held back Georgians of color, and it’s clear why stubborn disparities in education, health and economic status continue to persist.

It’s time for Georgia to change these realities and invest in strategies to increase economic mobility for millions of its people and ultimately build a stronger, more prosperous place where everyone can thrive.

Georgians want the state to put the public’s money in places where it will do more good. They are looking for leaders who will invest in their future. The people of Georgia agree it is time to seize the opportunity. Georgia’s future is on the line.

There’s no time to waste. I’m with them!

Taifa Butler Smith is executive director of the Georgia Budget Policy Institute. This piece originally appeared in a slightly different form on their blog.

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