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Guest opinion: 2022 General Assembly gets going
Ben Watson
Sen. Ben Watson

By State Sen. Ben Watson, MD.

The 2022 General Assembly session was officially gaveled in on this past Monday. It was a short session as many, if not, most of Georgia was fixated on the College Football Championship game held in Indianapolis, IN. As a graduate of The University of Georgia, I send my congratulations to the Georgia Bulldog football team as they finished the year as the National Champions. Best of all, they did it by beating our Southeastern Conference foe, Alabama. The only thing that needs to be said is “Go Dawgs.” Governor Brian Kemp addressed a joint session of the General Assembly on Thursday to discuss his proposals and budget priorities. He announced his plans to provide a $1.6 billion tax refund to all Georgia taxpayers. The governor’s plan would allow every citizen filing their income taxes this April to receive a refund credit ranging from $250 for single filers to $500 for joint filers.

He also plans to introduce legislation to exempt retirement income for veterans residing in the Peach State, an effort to keep military veterans living and working in our state. He also wishes to ensure at least ninety percent of tuition is covered by the HOPE scholarship for its recipients at all public post-secondary education institutions.

As many of you have seen and felt, Georgia is the top state to be coming out of the COVID recession because we worked diligently to mitigate the virus while keeping our state open for business. Because of that, we have excess revenues as our economy continues to grow in these tumultuous times, and that will lead to more available funding for some areas of our state including education, mental health support, tax refunds, teacher pay raises and more.

Georgia’s constitution requires us to balance the budget every year and we have funded our rainy-day fund to its maximum level already. While we have many more resources to work with this year, rest assured that we will be diligent with your tax dollars to ensure they are properly accounted for and getting results as intended.

I am tasked in the senate to serve as both Chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee and subcommittee Chairman on Appropriations for the Department of Behavior Health and Developmental Disabilities. As such, I will be working to expand mental health laws and pushing more resources to help those struggling with mental health issues.

I will be working to help lower maternal morbidity rates funded by an increase Medicaid funding to support full year of medical coverage for mothers with problem pregnancies. Georgia needs to work to save lives of mothers with problem pregnancies and lower their death rate. I will expand on these topics in later editions of this weekly update.

I will continue updating you on what we are doing as the 2022 session move a forward. This coming week we will begin the budget process, and I will provide more information about this next week.

Thank you for your continued interest in the General Assembly session. As your public servant, feel free to visit me at the Capitol or to reach out to me by phone or email. I am in 325-A Coverdell Legislative Office Building. My office phone number is (404) 656-7880 and my email is ben.watson@senate. I look forward to continuing to serve you.

Sen. Ben Watson, M.D., represents Bryan County in the Georgia General Assembly.

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