MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - As 2019 comes to a close, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is looking back at a year of accomplishments and ahead to what 2020 could bring.
The beginning of 2019 kicked off with a special session to pass a 10-cent state gas tax increase to fund road, bridge, and Port of Mobile improvements. Ivey highlighted this as one of her top accomplishments during 2019.
“This will help the future of Alabama and the state of Alabama so they can drive safely, get to and from work safely," she said.
Ivey was proud of the bipartisan legislation. Democrats had said they voted for the tax increase in part because of the governor’s commitment to listening to their thoughts on health care and Medicaid expansion. When asked if she’d held meetings with the democratic caucus, Ivey said there were legislative leadership meetings held on the matter.
“Health care for all of Alabama is a topic that we’re discussing and still concerned about and working out,” she explained.
The prison crisis continues to be a problem in the state as a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit looms over the state alleging the state’s men’s prisons are violating the eighth amendment.
Several inmates died in Alabama Department of Corrections custody this year. The governor said she has put a priority on solving the problems, which Ivey said is a multifaceted issue. She continues to move forward in the process to build three new regional megaprisons with anticipated costs coming to a total of $800 million.
“Our facilities are all broken down and it’s just not economically feasible to keep on patching them. And so then we plan to build three new large modern prisons that will help address better care for the inmates and more security for the correctional officers,” she said.
A criminal justice study commission has spent months researching solutions to address prison reform during the 2020 session.
Here’s her full interview.
Top Republican state leaders anticipate several lottery proposals will come forward in 2020. However, discussions about gaming overall in the state remain a top priority for Senate and House Republican leadership before passing a lottery.
When asked if the governor would consider a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Ivey wanted to get the facts first before making a decision.
“That’s a decision not only be made by the governor, but also by the legislature advocates in the public. We’ll be looking at all those issues and getting facts most folks don’t know what a compact is. We need to have all the facts before we try to leap into something like that, but I’m open for good ideas,” she said.
Education test scores are concerning as the state is dead last in NAEP math scores.
To improve these “rock bottom” scores, Ivey wants voters to approve amendment one. If it passed, the governor would appoint state school board members instead of Alabamians electing them.
“And you know if you have a football team and the coach continues to lose, you don’t renew the contract," she said. “The voters want to do a good job, but if you ask them who their state school board member is, they can’t tell you.”
The state approved a 4 percent teacher pay raise in 2019. Some state lawmakers have already talked about another raise, but Ivey said that may be on hold for 2020.
“We are hopeful but when our scores are as low as they are and things are not working like they should, seems to me we need to focus on passing Amendment 1," she said. "I told that to AEA for sure. Just coming more money. Money year after year and not proposing to make any changes for progress just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Other topics were discussed including workforce development and rural health care. You can watch the entire interview above. The governor is expected to announce her 2020 legislative agenda at the state of the state address in February.