On a recent visit to the CSRA, Governor Brian Kemp made time to stop by the set of The Means Report. Sitting down with Brad Means, they talked about all of the issues facing Georgia residents and what he sees for the future of Augusta.
Brad Means: We are privileged to welcome back the Governor of the great state of Georgia. You know, Governor Brian Kemp came to us just days before his inauguration. And now we wanna kinda do that six month check to see how things are going in Atlanta and beyond for the Governor and his team; including the economic outlook. What does the future potentially hold for the Peach State? And you know, new laws kicked in Georgia just a few short days ago as of July 1. We’ll cover that and much, much more with Georgia’s Governor, Brian Kemp. And Governor Kemp, I’m so grateful to you for coming back. I guess things went well the first time.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Oh it did. Great to be back on with ya. We’ve been off to a roaring start, had a great session. I know we’re gonna talk about that historic in many ways. So we’re very excited about that. And it’s great to be back in the CSRA today.
Brad Means: Well, we’re glad that you’re here. And how was your 4th? I saw you went back home. Grand Marshal for the parade in Athens.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Yeah, actually Colbert, Georgia..
Brad Means: Colbert, Georgia, excuse me.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Well it’s a little small community but it was the 50th year. I’ve been in there when I was campaigning for the legislature, it’s a great tradition there, great people, and I had a good time a lot of fun, so we had a great fourth, it was really a great 4th of July holiday.
Brad Means: President Trump’s 4th of July celebration up in D.C. took some heat, some opponents said they didn’t like that it cost so much. I thought it turned out okay.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Yeah, look, I mean it wasn’t Colbert’s wasn’t quite that big, but we still had a good time. Look, I think it’s great for our country to celebrate it’s independence and it’s birthday if you will and certainly the focus in Washington as it was in Colbert and many other places around our state was focused on the men and women who are serving us in the military, first responders, ya know a way to thank those folks that are putting it on the line everyday to keep us safe and give us the freedoms that we have to do celebrations like that, so I thought it was a great weekend.
Brad Means: How’s it been so far, is being Governor what you expected? Your thoughts on these first six months.
Gov. Brian Kemp: It’s really been great, ya know very busy but I’ve pretty much expected that, I don’t think there’s anything that really has caught us off guard through the transition moving into sessions so quickly after that, we had probably one of the most productive sessions that we’ve had in a very long time. I’m very thankful to the local legislative delegation for their support. When you think about our budget we did some historic things, certainly one of those was the largest teacher pay raise in state history.
Brad Means: Yup.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Which was well needed, we’re losing 44% of our teachers in the first five years, they’re leaving the system that’s a problem for suburban districts, rural districts, and urban districts, so got great feedback on that. We did the school security grants where every single public school in the whole state of Georgia, over 2,000 of those got a $30,000 grant that they can use complete local control to keep your kids in the CSRA safe in the classroom and those that are educating them and doing the administrative work in the schools. We tackled mental health issues in our high schools with double the funding for the APEX program which is one of the big issues that we see that create school violence, so very proud of that, and many other things, so we had a great session.
Brad Means: Are you comfortable with the funding for all of those things, especially and really in particular teacher pay raises there were some concerns that there wouldn’t be enough money to cover those $3,000 hikes the teachers got. I know a lot of districts handle things locally. It’s a formula to complicated for me to understand but when the state has to cover those raises will the money be there?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Well the money is definitely there. The feedback I’ve gotten is most people are using the full $3,000 that’s the way we designed the pay raise. The teachers deserve it and I certainly appreciate the local superintendents and the local school boards that are making that commitment to their educators as we are at the state level. We’ve had some systems that have actually given more to the rank and file workers in the system than the 2% that we put in for the state employee raise as well as the teacher raise, so I think that’s sending a strong message out there. I think morale is very high but we’re not done with that we still have more to do but we’re also focusing now on the amount of testing and other state mandates that are out there. Ya know I’ve vetoed a couple bills that made some legislators unhappy, but I did it because it was gonna be an unfunded mandate that was creating more work for the locals and there was a better way to address that, not that I don’t support the issue I just didn’t support the way that that was done. Folks can know that I’m gonna be a local controlled Governor when it comes to education.
Brad Means: Another thing that has kept you very busy since you took office, appointments, putting people on boards, and commissions and panels, all over the state of Georgia, half of ’em at last check are women, several are LGBTQ is that intentional Governor Kemp, or are you just picking the best candidates or both?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Oh no no we’re picking the best people to serve on these boards and commissions. I mean look it’s been a focus of mine in when I was in the Secretary of States office and my private sector businesses and certainly as Governor to give all people opportunities if they’re qualified to do that. I think that’s healthy for our state, it’s healthy for our economy, it’s healthy for these boards to have good hard working Georigans on there that represent geographic differences across our state but also different industries and bring different expertise to these different fields and I think if you look at our appointments, that’s exactly what you’re getting. Ya know I don’t really get into other specifics other than these people are qualified for the work that that board does and they have laws that they’re following and they’re implementing rules that have an effect on our citizens or the professions that they’re practicing in and that’s very important.
Brad Means: It didn’t take long for you to make national news when you brought on and signed the heartbeat bill, a bill that bans abortions at the first sign on a heartbeat maybe six weeks into a pregnancy. Recently as we prepared to take this an Ohio judge blocked Ohio’s bill which is similar, you worried about the fate of the heartbeat bill in Georgia?
Gov. Brian Kemp: No, I’m not worried, we’re a state that values life at the heartbeat that’s what the legislature did this year. We knew full well that the left would not like it that they would sue us and that there would be judges that may not agree with this and that’s just part of the legal process but we’re in this for the long haul. Ya know we’re a state that supports life not only at the heartbeat also in many other ways. My wife Marty and I are focused on ending human trafficking in our state. We’re working right now for another session on adoption reform, foster care reform, you know we’re focused on going after street gangs, valuing our families lives that are quite honestly just being disruptive and taking away too early by a bunch of thugs that are either selling bad drugs that are killing our youth or they’re getting shot because they’re in some sort of crossfire or get lured into some sort of gang. So we’re not gonna run away from our values in our state. That’s what makes Georgia great. That’s why our business environment’s so good and has been a long time and even for those that disagree with the heartbeat bill, ya know people, Georgians can know that we value life at many stages.
Brad Means: Where did that come from? Where did it come from in your life, was it a sermon you heard in church? Was it the way you were brought up where you said you know what I’m all about the unborn and their rights.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Yeah ya know it’s a very good question. I think it’s different for different people, I think for me science has evolved I think for a lot of legislators that’s the case as well. Ya know we need our state to be thriving and growing and I just believe that we should give every human being that opportunity to come into this world to know that they’re gonna be in a state that values that life and we can do many things and give that life many opportunities and that’s exactly what we’re doing in Georgia.
Brad Means: Does it bother you that Hollywood’s mad at us?
Gov. Brian Kemp: No, I mean I’m used to a lot of rhetoric from the left. I think when you look at our film tax credit we got the best business environment for film and many other things in our state. I’ve been a huge supporter of that, that’s been very clear. The folks that we’re talking to that ar doing business here, they love the environment, they love the work force our state and previous Governor’s and I have continued to fund workforce development issues to support the film industry so they have the workers that they need. The private sector here has put the capital in to capital resources and projects and studios and other things that are here that make us very attractive that’s not going away. There may be a few people that say they don’t want to come work here but there’s gonna be others that are, they have long term contracts and they’re happy with those, so our focus is on keeping that good business environment, providing the work force and not listening to the rhetoric.
Brad Means: Do you need to go out there and meet with the bigwigs like Stacey Abrams did, kinda schmooze ’em, see if they’ll change their minds and come over here and like us again.
Gov. Brian Kemp: No, well I think the folks that are in California that are making the business decisions they know that we’re a good state to be in, they know they’re going to continue to do business here. I think they just having to deal with the politics of some of the actors and I certainly understand that, but the fundamentals are good at the end of the day people are making business decisions, they’re not making political ones and that’s why we’re in very good shape. Just in the last week I’ve seen two new films that are gonna be shooting here. One of ’em is a Sylvester Stallone.
Brad Means: All right so we’re okay.
Gov. Brian Kemp: We’re definitely okay.
Brad Means: Movie wise. We’re talking to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp here on The Means Report he just returned not too terribly long ago from South Korea. We’ll find out about his visit there and that nation’s importance to the state of Georgia. The Governor of Georgia, our guest when we come back.
Brad Means: Welcome back to The Means Report where Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is our very special guest today. Governor Kemp we love South Korea they pump a lot of money into Georgia. You went down there to try to make sure that relationship is strong, how’d it go?
Gov. Brian Kemp: It went great. We had a great trip that was very busy and it takes about I guess thirteen fourteen hours to get over there so it’s a long flight, but there’s direct flights from right out of Atlanta which makes us very attractive to South Korean companies to many of these individuals that we’ve met we’ve been doing business in Georgia for fifteen or twenty years. So we were saying hello to a lot of old friends. I was also over there making new friends and also just letting them know that the new governor is gonna be a friend to a lot of old friends of ours. And it went great we also met with several prospects while we’re over there, so we have a lot of really good deals that we’re working on landing for our state and we celebrated in their culture some of the other recent announcements that we’ve had like Sangsin brakes. We went and visited them in Henry County. 200 jobs, state of the art brake technology for the tractor trailer industry that it is safety focused which is something that I know that our companies and our citizens are glad of. Also SK Innovations who’s building a huge battery plant in Jackson County largest foreign investment we’ve ever had in our state almost 1.7 billion dollars, 2,000 jobs. I believe it will be much bigger than that. We were continuing to facilitate that relationship with the company and their leadership. Had a great dinner with them and visits letting them know that hey we’re not just gonna support you getting the ground breaking going on or support you until the plant is built. We’re gonna support you where you workforce needs and we’re gonna be ready to continue to support you as you grow and want to expand in the future. Which I absolutely believe that they will do. So very excited about our opportunities with South Korean companies. They need to grow in other parts of the world the US is a very attractive place for them to invest and we’ve got great things going for us. We’re the number one state in the country, six years in a row for business from a site selection standpoint.
Brad Means: Yeah great place to do business.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Yeah we got quick start training programs, our technical colleges and our higher ed when you think about research and technology that places like Georgia Tech will provide to that company. So we offer a lot of different things. Great logistics, we’re right in the heart of where their supplier network is.
Brad Means: I mean they look at you and they don’t see Atlanta they see the whole state, and they picture you as a representative of the whole state. A lot of people think that Atlanta gets everything but to hear you describe it, the wealth it spread all over Georgia.
Gov. Brian Kemp: No doubt about it. We have the third largest Korean population in the state of Georgia, so they’re very, they feel very at home when they get to Georgia they have a lot of resources in the local community for them. Their suppliers are all over the southeast and we’re competing very well for that business and I believe that we’ll continue to be able to land more of it in the future. Which gives hard working Georgians an opportunity to continue to live in our state for their children to do that and for their grandchildren as well and experience that great quality of life that we have here in Georgia.
Brad Means: Healthcare was big part of your campaign platform it continues to be a part of your administration here in the early going, how are things going in healthcare you hear talk about waivers, you hear talk about expanding Medicare in the state of Georgia how can you update us?
Gov. Brian Kemp: We’re here to talk about putting patients first. That’s what we got done this year with the patients first act, I appreciate the legislative support for that that allows us to move forward with two different waivers, the 1332 and the 1115. One of them is a Medicaid waiver that’ll help us fix a broken system to really focus on the things that we need to in our state which is a blind age, disabled, our children and then issues that we’re having a hard time with when you think about mental health, HIV, and other things. Ya know how that looks we’re going through that process right now, but we cannot continue to do business the same way we have in the past it’s not working. We gotta have a reform minded Governor, thankfully we have a reform minded President that will give us the ability to seek waivers and let the states be the incubators of democracy and for us to build a Georgia based Healthcare plan. We’re not worried about if this is good for Tennessee or Florida, or South Carolina, we want to come up with a system that’s good for Georgia that increases access for hard working Georgians, for our people and lowers cost and that’s what we’re doing on both of these waivers. So one of them is for Medicaid the other one is for Obamacare that will help do just that.
Brad Means: Some people are hurting right now, farmers are hurting. We covered Hurricane Michael and it’s impact last time you were here. There was a report that came out saying farmer suicide rates are up. People are hurting at the Georgia Pacific company, the plant you visited today. How can we help make sure that life is better for those who are working so hard for Georgia.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Well first of all, you know talking today and going backwards that was one reason we went to Thompson today to visit the folks in McDuffie County and let them know that we’re paying attention, we know what happened to Georgia Pacific, we know what has happened with other industries up there. Thankfully a lot of those folks are getting moved and having other opportunities, but there some that are not so we’re focused on that. Georgia Department of Economic Development is focused on that we will do everything in our power to steer people here ’cause we know that that is a focus and not just in McDuffie County but literally in the CSRA region. I talked to a lot of the folks up there today in McDuffie County and said think regionally a lot of other communities are doing this, they’re open to doing that and I think it give you better opportunities down the road. But just know that as Governor I’m definitely focused on that. For our farmers, I spent way more time than I should have focused on getting the funding bill passed. Working with Senator David Purdue, Senator Isakson, and other members of our local delegation. I wanna thank them for their commitment for never giving up in a really tough political environment. Unfortunately that whole debate quite honestly was driven by politics. Senator Perdue and I are talking just about everyday on that issue. He was talking to the President and the President’s support for the disaster relief bill never wavered even though there were things in there dealing with Puerto Rico that he found hard to swallow because he did not want to give up on our farmers and our farm families in South and Southwest Georgia. And we did not either, ya know, I used a lot of political capital in every which way that I could to help move the needle on that and I know Commissioner Gary Black our Ag Commissioner, Secretary Perdue, our former Governor and US Secretary of Agriculture now focused on figuring out the quickest way, the most convenient way to get the funding that has passed out to folks that actually need it and I have told them all if there’s anything they need that they don’t have that we can provide in the Governor’s Executive Branch agencies to let us know because they need the help down there. I’m very thankful the bill passed. I’m thankful the President signed it so quickly but now it’s time to cut out the federal bureaucracy and do a block grant or something to get the money to the states. I know we can get the money out Commissioner Black can very quickly if we can just get our hands on it and the farmers need it.
Brad Means: You know at the top of the show I was asking you what’s its like to be the Governor. Is it what you expected and I wanted to ask you about how it affects your ability to be a husband and a dad, but part of my question was answered when Mrs. Kemp came into the television station with you today. You talked about human trafficking and her efforts there she’s a key part of your team and I wanted to acknowledge her.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Oh look, she is, Marty has been focused on a lot of great issues for our state that ya know are her initiatives and things that she’s passionate about certainly human trafficking the grace commission that she’s put together. I mean already what she’s done in just a few months just to raise awareness on that issue. You know we talked about it last time I was here for the Superbowl but now the real work happens. After the glamour of the Superbowl and the week of bad things happening and good announcement of feds and states and local folks working together to go after some of these people. Now is where the people who work on this all the time they’re still in the trenches, they’re still grinding away and they need folks in our position to keep that fire burning, with the press and educating others. She’s been focused on getting companies trained, other state agencies trained on how to look for signs on human trafficking, how you report that. So that is an ongoing battle that she’s committed to fighting as well as the members of the Grace Commission. She’s supporting our Georgia grown businesses and our farmers by promoting the Georgia grown program. We’re serving whenever possible Georgia grown at the mansion, things that were either produced grown or made here in the great state of Georgia. This gives exposure to our entrepreneurs and our farmers with people literally from all over the world that are coming to the Governors mansion. She’s also had a couple of pet adoption days at the mansion, so we’ve had literally hundreds of people, or she has along with our three daughters they’ve been helping with that as well. Bringing pets to get adopted. The last one they had they had 22 I think it was pets that got adopted that day and another over 20 that are in the queue that hopefully will happen. It doesn’t sound like a lot but you have some adoption agencies that they’re glad to get a pet adopted once or twice a week.
Brad Means: Yeah, just one or two they’ll take.
Gov. Brian Kemp: She’s committed to a lot of great things. She’s doing a fine job as first lady.
Brad Means: Two quick questions, one is cyber and the future of Augusta, Georgia. People still see us as the cyber capital right? Everyone. It’s booming.
Gov. Brian Kemp: I certainly see it that way.
Brad Means: It’s not going anywhere. Your predecessor was a big friend when it came to cyber you are too I’m guessing.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Now look Governor Deal I think we need to give him a lot of credit for his support for cyber for supporting the command, for supporting the academy and the things that are going on over there that support will not waver with me as Governor. There’s been a lot of capital put into that from a financial standpoint. Now we need to take advantage of that. We need to make Augusta the cyber capital of the world kinda like Columbus is the Thintec capital of the world. One of the things that I wanna continue to work on is work with the local communities and everything that’s going on here in cyber to leverage that with the private sector to keep producing those great paying jobs and keep revitalizing downtown Augusta with great opportunities and then focus on the other industries to really drive growth and drive our economy and certainly the healthcare industry is one of them here but also there’s a strong manufacturing base ya know I’m a Governor that is very proud to tell people there is not a da’gum thing wrong with taking a job in manufacturing there’s great opportunities in our state that are higher paying in many areas than they used to be so we got a lot of great things going on in the CSRA we’re going to continue to work hard to keep it that way.
Brad Means: Well we appreciate your hard work Governor Kemp and your time today. Thanks for being our guest.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Great to be back home with ya, thank you so much.
Brad Means: Absolutely, Governor Brian Kemp our special guest on The Means Report.