Gov. Ivey praises Alabama’s economic wins during State of the State address

Gov. Ivey praises Alabama’s economic wins during State of the State address
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey delivers her State of the State address in Montgomery Tuesday night. (Hal Yeager / Governor's Office)

With state lawmakers back in session in a big state election year, Gov. Kay Ivey used her State of the State address Tuesday evening to tout the state’s recent successes in economic development and inspire members of the Legislature to build on the progress.

Ivey proposed programs to keep the momentum going by directing more funding to support early learning, improve performance at struggling elementary schools and for critical infrastructure, including repairs to aging water and sewer systems, and expansion of rural broadband and electric vehicle charging stations.

“This evening, I renew my commitment to you that we will not only continue tackling old problems. We will work together as Alabamians to find new solutions so that our state is the best place to live, work and raise a family for years to come,” Ivey said.

Lawmakers are in a unique position this year, with state revenues up and federal infrastructure and COVID-19 relief dollars available to support families and the state’s economy.

Ivey cautioned lawmakers to make wise decisions regarding the temporary surge in federal aid. “We must be smart with this one-time money and commit to the people of Alabama that we will invest – not just casually spend – these dollars. I’ll say again that these federal dollars are just one-time funds. This is not free money,” Ivey said.

In addition to education support and expanding broadband connectivity and water and sewer infrastructure, Ivey said some of the dollars should be invested in hospitals, nursing homes and health care services. Over the past decade, the state has seen more than a dozen rural hospitals close, forcing residents in small towns to travel farther for critical medical care.

Ivey was expected to meet with legislative leaders on Wednesday for further discussions about funding priorities, including the potential of calling a special session of the Legislature to hammer out a spending program for the federal dollars, separate from the traditional state spending plans.

In her speech, Ivey also proposed a 4% pay raise for state and school employees, programs to boost student test scores and reading proficiency, and pledged support for legislation creating a math task force with a focus on recruiting and retaining math teachers. State Democratic Party leaders are already angling for a higher wage increase for teachers, who’ve faced multiple challenges during the pandemic.

Ivey proposed a $12 million investment for two new mental health crisis centers and to support health services. Democrats have long supported an increase in state Medicaid spending for better health outcomes in the state, an idea that has not received support by the full Legislature.

The governor touted the ongoing Rebuild Alabama road and bridge and infrastructure plan, fueled by a recent increase in state gasoline taxes. During her speech she announced plans to widen a heavily traveled section of Interstate Highway 59, north of Birmingham, from Chalkville Mountain Road to I-459 near Trussville, and a section of Interstate Highway 10 west of Mobile.

She lauded the state’s low unemployment rate and highlighted some of the recent economic development wins, including the $1.1 billion project by Smucker to build a manufacturing plant in Jefferson County. She said preliminary numbers for 2021 indicated the state reaped “investments totaling $5.4 billion with some 9,000 new jobs created. I predict to you tonight – in fact, I am confident – that our final numbers will be even bigger.”

Ivey praised retiring U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, saying the veteran senator was “instrumental in giving Alabama a seat at the table and has been vital in our state’s successes.”

View the governor’s entire State of the State speech here.

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