MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Tuesday evening, Gov. Kay Ivey issued the 2020 State of the State address in the State Capitol.
Ivey reported in her speech that the “State of our State is strong and growing.” She spoke about the bipartisan meetings she’s held with the leadership of both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate, saying she knew the meetings would help them come up with solutions to everything from infrastructure funding to the state education system.
“Look, no one here will be shocked to learn that our two political parties don’t always see eye-to-eye,” she said. “But unlike what we’ve seen nationally, I knew that no one party has a monopoly on good ideas.”
Ivey said a prime example of working together is Rebuild Alabama.
“In recent weeks and months, we have announced the state’s portion of $122 million worth of road and bridge projects in more than 48 of Alabama’s 67 counties. And this is just six months after the new revenue began coming in,” she said.
Ivey talked about the challenges within Alabama’s criminal justice system, saying she feels a “sense of urgency” to address the issues. She said she is pleased to report that recruiting and retention efforts are improving the issue of understaffing.
“Over the past seven months, the Criminal Justice Study Group I appointed last year analyzed many of the crucial components necessary to address the needs to rehabilitate those within our prison system,” she said.
Ivey said she looks forward to working with the legislature and others on bills specifically designed to address some of the issues.
Ivey also said she asked Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn to spearhead efforts to build three new prisons, which will transition facilities from warehousing inmates to rehabilitating people. She said Alabama has no choice but to reinvent the corrections system by replacing outdated and unsafe facilities that pose a great risk to public safety.
“You’ve heard me say this before, this is an Alabama problem that must have an Alabama solution,” she said. “I look forward to working with each of you.”
Ivey then introduced Brandie McCain, who she said in one year completed the coursework for three logistics certificates at Ingram State, the only post-secondary institution in the country that exclusively serves the incarcerated population.
“Brandie worked with Ingram’s job placement team to locate a job where she could use her newly acquired skills. With their assistance, she landed a job at Wright Way Staffing in Fairfield, where she quickly moved up the ranks to become an office administrator and staff recruiter,” Ivey said. "In her new role as an employer, Brandie is giving back by looking to hire other qualified Ingram State graduates."
Ivey said a world-class workforce begins with a world-class education system, and the path leading to that starts with a solid foundation constructed during the first five years of life.
“My education budget that I am proposing will provide an additional $25 million to expand our nationally-recognized First Class Pre-K program,” she said. “This significant increase will expand the program by another 193 classrooms.”
Ivey also proposed a $1 billion public school and college authority for K-12 education, as well as for two- and four-year colleges and universities. She said the money will be distributed on a formula basis to allow for much-needed capital improvements across the state. Equally important, she said, this bond will not include any legislative earmarks for pet projects.
“It has been almost 14 years since Alabama made an investment of this size by providing direct help to our schools," Ivey said. "And whether it is for new construction, safety improvements or technology upgrades, this billion-dollar investment is coming at the right time and for the right reasons.”
Ivey also proposed a 3 percent pay raise for all teachers, from pre-K to community college.
Ivey introduced two more guests in the State Capitol, John Carroll and Carl Flemons. Carroll, Ivey said, was an unemployed Army veteran who went to the Decatur Career Center and worked with Flemons, a veteran’s representative at the Department of Labor. Flemons helped Carroll work on his resume and helped him apply for jobs, eventually helping him land employment at a door manufacturing company. Carroll later went to work for LG Electronics as a safety coordinator.
Ivey used this story as a reason to call for a 2 percent pay increase for all state employees, for people like Flemons.
“Whether it is the State Trooper patrolling our highways or a social worker rescuing an abused child, we can be proud to have so many dedicated men and women who are giving their best to the people of Alabama,” she said.
Ivey next talked about the seven law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty in the state. She introduced another guest, Joanne Williams, the widow of Lowndes County Sheriff “Big John” Williams, and said she represented the families of those lost.
“These heroes exhibited the best virtues of our state – they were selfless, brave, dedicated and, in the end, willing to sacrifice their lives for all of us,” Ivey said.
Ivey talked about state troopers, saying the number of troopers has increased from 365 to 435. She said her budget will include additional funding to hire and train 50 additional sworn officers.
Ivey said her budget would also invest in healthcare, both rural health and mental health. She said a pilot program to incentivize primary care physicians and nurse practitioners to establish services in medically underserved areas has her full support.
“I am calling on the Legislature to support my rural health care initiatives which, among other things, will help improve basic primary care in many deserving communities,” she said. “By encouraging these medical professionals to build a practice in these areas, we can literally transform many small towns throughout the state.”
Ivey is also calling on the legislature to provide funding to build three new crisis centers in the state, where people facing mental health challenges can find a safe haven.
Ivey ended her address with a reminder, a challenge and a promise.
The reminder: every challenge is an opportunity waiting for action. Though Ivey said Alabama is experiencing the best economy it’s ever had, she said there are still about 60,000 Alabamians seeking employment opportunities and others are trying to climb the next step up the economic ladder.
“I say to everyone across our state who is still climbing - we will not leave you behind,” she said.
As for the challenge, Ivey talked about the potential of a lottery as a way to provide money for education. She brought up that the last time the legislature gave voters the opportunity to vote on an education lottery, it was voted down 54 to 46 percent. Ivey said she will be signing an executive order to establish a working group of Alabama citizens to gather all the facts on how much money could be gained if some form of gaming expansion occurred.
“My challenge to the Legislature is: give us some time to get the facts and then, together, we will give the people of Alabama the information they need to make the most informed decision possible,” Ivey said.
And for her promise:
“Throughout my service as governor, I have pledged to level with you and be a governor who doesn’t shrink from responsibility just because it is hard,” she said. “I promise you this – I’m going to do all I can to help lead our state to solve tough problems and realize our untapped potential. Serving as your governor has been the utmost honor and privilege of my life.”
Watch Ivey’s full address below.