Georgia’s economy is strong, but it is not fair. Income inequality in the state of Georgia is accelerating. The rich are getting richer while the poor get poorer. This is unsustainable and needs to change before Georgia’s middle class disappears.

The minimum wage in Georgia is currently set to $5.15 per hour – lower than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Workers cannot support themselves on these wages, and far too many grown adults have to work two or three jobs just to pay the bills. The amount of time they devote to working prevents them from spending time with family, and importantly, it prevents them from pursuing skills training or education to allow them better opportunities in the future. Raising the minimum wage in the state of Georgia would help reduce unemployment – if a worker is financially able to go from two jobs to one, the second job becomes available to another potential worker. Raising the minimum wage will stimulate the economy – when the working class gets more money, they spend it: on home repairs, on car repairs, on consumer goods, on restaurants, on Christmas and birthday presents for their kids. This additional spending will generate revenue to help businesses offset the labor overhead.

But from a governmental perspective, the best thing about raising the minimum wage is that it will reduce entitlement spending overall. Far too many massive nationwide employers rely on entitlement spending to keep their workers alive while the companies provide insufficient pay. Studies have shown that on average, every Wal-Mart store costs state and federal government over $900,000 per year in entitlement spending for their workers. Right now, your tax dollars are being used to allow this massive corporation to pull in massive profits by paying their workers poverty wages. This needs to stop, and raising the minimum wage is the single best way to do this.

That being said, I do recognize that not all businesses will be impacted evenly by this proposal. Small businesses operate on much smaller margins and are likely to be hit harder by a minimum wage increase. This is why, in addition to increasing the minimum wage incrementally over a period of years, I will propose a state tax deduction for businesses that employ fewer than 100 workers. This deduction will allow employers to deduct the difference in wages for these employees from the taxable income for the business. I will propose an increase to $10 per hour effective January 1, 2020, with the tax deduction available immediately. I will propose an increase to $12 per hour effective January 1, 2022, with the tax deduction at that time restricted to no more than $2 per hour worked to reflect the prior $10 minimum wage. While I would like to see the state minimum wage rise to $15 in 2024, I am willing to wait for the incremental changes and the tax changes to show the benefits of this approach before continuing down that path.

Finally, we need to invest in the jobs of tomorrow. This means we need to continue the growth of Georgia’s technical sector as well as expanding our position within the growing green energy sector. By protecting access to the critical Internet infrastructure needed for technical jobs, and ensuring reliability and high-speed broadband availability statewide, we can attract leaders in the technical sector to come to Georgia. We can do this by ensuring that telecom giants do not dominate the discussion about Internet access in Georgia, and one way to do that is by supporting municipal broadband networks. In terms of energy, solar power is getting cheaper every year and promises to be the energy solution of our future. We owe it to ourselves and our children to position Georgia as a leader in this sector in terms of research and development, solar energy generation, and manufacturing of solar panels. I plan to propose a bill in the state legislature protecting the rights of local communities to pursue municipal broadband, and to work with the Georgia Public Services Commissioner to increase our commitment to clean, renewable energy through Georgia utilities.

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