The Democratic gubernatorial candidate also called for Medicaid expansion and legalization of casino gambling.
ATLANTA (CN) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said the Peach State has a “once in a generation” chance to invest in families and small businesses without raising taxes in a major speech Tuesday evening announcing her economic plan for Georgia ahead of November’s election.
As part of her “Georgia Thrives” economic plan, Abrams said she would use the state’s $7 billion budget surplus to focus on job growth, small business investment, “economic justice” and expanding Medicaid to all low-income adults.
“Hear me clearly: we don’t have to raise taxes,” Abrams said during the speech Tuesday at a downtown Atlanta brewery. “All we have to do is raise our expectations of those who lead us.”
The proposal comes as the latest Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll shows Abrams trailing her opponent, Republican incumbent Governor Brian Kemp, by 5%. The highly publicized speech represents a shift in Abrams’ campaign to tackle economic issues head-on as Kemp touts billions of dollars in new investments for the state under his leadership.
Abrams also proposed a plan to legalize casino gambling and sports betting to fund an expansion of the lottery-funded HOPE merit scholarship, and guarantee free technical college to Georgians, saying the money generated would be “a permanent source of revenue to underwrite broader access to education.”
“Studies project the potential for billions in economic impact, funds that will not only finance our efforts to replenish and expand the HOPE scholarship, but will also provide new economic opportunities for Georgia that can grow jobs and make our economy stronger for everyone,” Abrams said.
The HOPE scholarship provides college tuition assistance to students who graduate from high school with a minimum 3.0 grade point average.
Expanding gambling in Georgia to allow casinos or sports betting is no easy task and past legislative efforts have not been successful. It would require a constitutional amendment and approval from two-thirds of the Legislature and a majority of voters in a referendum.
Pointing to recent nationwide anxiety over abortion limits, gun control and voting rights, Abrams also sought to motivate voters by emphasizing the growing importance of gubernatorial races.
“As the U.S. Supreme Court continues to rescind our civil liberties and deny our human rights, our protections must come from the state — from a governor who believes in our economic might and our moral obligations,” Abrams said, adding that the governor of Georgia will hold “unprecedented power over the future of the most diverse state in the South.”
Abrams slammed her opponent for backing “extreme and unpopular” policies which have negatively impacted the state’s business reputation and could threaten job growth.
She specifically pointed to Major League Baseball’s decision to move the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to the passage of a highly restrictive new voting law and widespread criticism by film industry leaders over Georgia’s six-week abortion ban.
“He is no anti-Trump moderate and no fiscal conservative,” she said of her opponent. “When the choice is between what’s best for Brian Kemp’s future and what’s best for Georgia, Brian Kemp will always choose himself.”
Kemp’s campaign released a statement ahead of Abrams’ announcement Tuesday, lambasting her for a February 2009 op-ed for the Athens Banner-Herald in which she vowed to introduce tax relief legislation as a state representative.
“Across our country, families are struggling to make ends meet, grocery store shelves are empty, and gas prices are making daily commutes a strain on Americans’ bank accounts — all because of this same, failed, liberal way of thinking,” Tate Mitchell, a spokesperson for Kemp, said in the statement.
Seeming to anticipate her opponent’s criticism, Abrams repeatedly affirmed the sustainability of her plan and attacked Kemp for failing to utilize Georgia’s resources to promote economic mobility among young people and minorities.
“If you’re already doing well and feel protected, you may decide Brian Kemp represents you fine. If you’re in the middle or on the edge you might assume that this is as good as it gets. It’s not true,” she said. “We are entitled to more. Our taxes have paid for more. And now it is time to get our money’s worth.”
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