We recently completed what Governor Kemp said, and I also believe, one of the greatest legislative sessions in Georgia.
From my perspective as Finance Chair, I was able to sponsor only the second and by far the largest income tax rate cut in Georgia history. We also returned surplus money from last year to the taxpayer. Every family that paid at least $500 in income taxes received $500 back this year and $250 for individuals. I also sponsored the suspension of the gasoline tax for a few months. While gasoline prices are bad right now, Georgia has the lowest prices in the country.
We are, of course, experiencing the highest inflation since I was in college, and energy prices are at record levels as well. Unfortunately, we can’t fix Washington. While our ability to deal with this at the state level is limited, as mentioned above, we are providing relief where we can as we go through this tough time of price increases.
Georgia has the hottest economy and is the envy of the nation right now. We currently have the lowest unemployment rate and the highest rainy day fund balance in Georgia history.
Our teachers now have the highest average teacher salary anywhere in the south, from Texas to Virginia.
At the state level, we continue to bring businesses into Georgia. In 2021, Georgia had a record year for new State Senate businesses coming to the state, and that record could be broken this year. And by far, most of those new jobs are located outside the 10-county metro-Atlanta area. It’s a great time to be in Georgia.
We will continue to work on infrastructure in rural Georgia. Significant investments are being used to provide broadband to areas lacking it. Companies need broadband, transportation, health care, and education to bring their companies into a new location.
Our port of Savannah continues to set records with the importing and exporting of products. In addition, we have had new customers using Savannah because of backups at other ports. The team we have there is committed to keeping goods flowing. We also have our inland port in Chatsworth, where goods are moved by rail into the inland port and transported to trucks in other areas. This keeps trucks off our roads and helps clear out the congestion in the port. I always remind everyone that the Northwest Georgia area, though the farthest distance from the port, is the largest customer in Georgia of goods coming through Savannah. In Floyd County, Pirelli tires is the largest customer of the Savannah port. And Pirelli tires are the exclusive provider of tires to Rivian trucks. The new facility, when built, will have an economic impact on this area.
One other item locally is the Northwest regional hospital property. We were able to get Governor Kemp to transfer that property to our local development authority. With over 130 acres, rail, and more than adequate electric supply, I expect big things from this property in the future. Unfortunately, the federal government and three governors ago agreed to close the facility several years before I was in the Senate. It is long past time to return this property to good use for our city and county. I appreciate Governor Kemp listening to us and finding a way to get it done.
The senate is currently out of session, but the work continues. Fourteen study committees are working on specific areas that various Senators have requested, from HOAs to the funding of education. Some areas will get intensive study, from economic development to excellence in education to the electrification of automobiles. Quite often, this research leads to legislation.
Again, I appreciate the support of our community, and it is an honor to be in the thick of things as Georgia continues to lead the way. We will always have periods of tough times ahead, but Georgia is poised to handle the tough times when they come. We also have a major tax study next year, but I will leave that for a future article. As always, please contact me with issues or suggestions. Until then, thanks so much for the opportunity to serve this area.