MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey didn’t have much choice Thursday in giving over control of the state’s nearly $2 billion in federal CARE Act funds to the Alabama Legislature. But she used what power she does have to show her displeasure, even though her party controls all branches of government.
“I have never desired to control a single penny of this money and if the Legislature feels so strongly that they should have that authority, I yield to them both the money and the responsibility to make good decisions" Ivey said in a strongly worded statement, "in the light of day where the people of Alabama know what is happening.”
Ivey said she’s seen a “wish list” that includes a new $200 million statehouse for the legislature and called such spending of the emergency coronavirus relief funds “totally unacceptable.”
“It comes to us in an emergency appropriation...to support the ongoing crisis that has killed 349 Alabamians, as of this moment, and wreaked havoc on our state’s economy," she explained of the money.
“It’s our job to appropriate funds," said Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, who also serves as chairman of the House General Fund. “The governor can submit her requests.” But, he added, “the issue is what are we going to do with some of these funds if we have access to them at all.”
Clouse proposed giving the governor $200 million in emergency funds from the CARES Act. The Senate version had $100 million. The House version had $600 million but it was later reduced to $200 million.
Despite Ivey’s office saying the money was designated to the nation’s governors, she said she’ll let the legislature have control. But in her statement released after a phone call with Clouse, she indicated she didn’t hand over control without a stern warning to legislators that they should be prepared to show the people of Alabama their detailed receipts.
“I made it clear to Chairman Clouse that this money belongs to the people of Alabama, not the Governor and, in my opinion, not even the Legislature," Ivey said, and she advised him “that I will not call the Legislature back into a Special Session unless and until they provide the people of Alabama – in advance – a full, detailed and public list of how the money will be spent in exact amounts, down to the penny.”
The governor said her administration would also provide the legislature with the receipts covering things like medical supplies and testing kits that have already been purchased and expects the legislature to "honor these expenses.”
The governor’s office said it has fielded pandemic-related concerns from cities, counties, colleges and universities, the K-12 system, and many others, and Ivey called it regrettable that "because of the legislature’s decision – at this last moment – these groups will now have to appeal to the 140 members for help.”
“We look forward to seeing their proposed budget," she concluded. "It is obvious the Legislature has more work to do.”
Ivey’s statement was released before the House passed education and general fund budgets Thursday afternoon.
“We appreciate the Governor adhering to the Alabama Constitution on how taxpayer dollars are appropriated," said Senate President Del Marsh, R-Anniston. "Although, it is surprising that anybody expected to have sole discretion on how this money would be spent without public input and oversight. We look forward to working with Governor Ivey and her team as we reopen Alabama for business, put people back to work, and get money from the CARES Act into the hands of those who need it the most.”
Ivey’s office has since released a document showing the “wish list”.