Opinion: Stacey Abrams’ vision, roadmap for Georgia

As Governor, I will build a Georgia where families and businesses can thrive

Georgia has flourished over the past 50 years. Our ports—air and sea—are economic engines that drive commerce and attract new companies. Our state has become a hub for innovation and opportunity. Yet, for too many of our fellow Georgians, the prosperity is a mirage. While we are a great place to do business, we lag behind in education, small business development, and healthcare. This next phase of Georgia’s development requires that voters make a choice—and the differences could not be clearer. I am the only candidate who sees all of Georgia and has comprehensive plans to move forward.

For seven years, I served as the House Democratic Leader, working across the aisle, protecting rural communities, and defending the rights of the vulnerable. As a business owner, I launched a manufacturing company that received innovation awards and co-founded a fintech company that supported thousands of jobs right here in Georgia. In these endeavors, the lessons I learned are what I will bring to the Governor’s office.

Our children deserve an excellent education, from cradle to career. Working with private and public providers, we must continue our progress in early education and eliminate the waiting list for our pre-K program, a program I helped save during the Great Recession. We must also revise our K-12 education funding formula to include wraparound services for nutrition, physical and mental health supports, and special needs. Georgia can provide pathways to post-secondary education through apprenticeships and technical college, and provide need-based aid to our public colleges, in addition to the existing merit-based HOPE Scholarship.

Unfortunately, my opponent has pledged to continue to siphon off hundreds of millions in public dollars to fund private education. These are funds that could provide resources for our students and pay raises for our teachers. I am proud to be the only candidate in this race who will commit to keeping public dollars in public schools.

To grow our state, we must expand Medicaid to cover nearly 500,000 Georgians. If we accept the tax dollars we’ve already paid, like 33 other states, we can create 56,000 jobs and add $6 billion in economic output. Georgia turns down $8 million each day we play political games in this life-or-death situation. More than half of our counties lack an OB-GYN. We have one of the highest maternal mortality rates and the fastest-growing rate of HIV diagnoses in the nation. We’ve already watched seven of our rural hospitals close in the past five years. Refusing to expand Medicaid also damages our business climate — companies will not locate in rural counties that lack health care access. Medicaid expansion is a moral and economic imperative for our state, yet my opponent stubbornly opposes it based on false arguments that have cost our state $12 billion.

Expanding Medicaid is only step one in building a truly diverse Georgia economy for every region of our state: urban, suburban, and rural alike. Georgia lags behind in our investment in Main Street businesses, which often lack access to capital. Through my proposed $10 million financing program for small businesses, we can encourage private sector capital for the shop dreams of the mechanic, the home health care startup, and the carpenter who wants to build sets for films. Under my leadership, we will also continue to invest in fundamental infrastructure — roads and bridges, transit, and rural broadband access — and create 22,000 active apprenticeships by 2022, for the skilled-labor pipeline that a diverse economy requires.

However, while we create new jobs, we must protect the ones we’ve already developed. Unfortunately, my opponent would support the so-called “religious freedom” bill or RFRA. This twice-defeated bill would legalize discrimination and destroy our business climate. Georgia’s film industry, which supported almost 100,000 jobs last year, has pledged — along with the NFL and many other companies — to boycott Georgia if the next governor signs RFRA. Brian Kemp’s Georgia is one where our film studios shut their lights off, our new football stadium sits empty during Super Bowls, and our LGBTQ community is subject to discrimination and violence.

Finally, we must continue our progress towards criminal justice reform. I am proud to have worked closely with Gov. Nathan Deal to make bipartisan progress against costly mass incarceration. I am the only candidate in this race who will work to decriminalize poverty and expand pathways back to opportunity for thousands of Georgians who want to re-enter our communities as productive members of our society. And I disagree with my opponent’s opposition to a living wage for local law enforcement: we cannot call for increased community safety and refuse to support those putting their lives on the line.

Elections are about choices. I am running for governor based on comprehensive plans, proven bipartisan leadership, and a vision where every Georgian has the freedom and opportunity to thrive. If you elect me governor, together we will build a healthy, well-educated labor force for the future, attract capital investment, and nourish a diverse economy that reaches every region of our great state. Georgia families and businesses deserve no less.

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