MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - This is one part in our series on the candidates in Alabama's upcoming June 5 gubernatorial primary elections.
SUE BELL COBB
"Number one, I'm the most qualified person and No. 2, I am absolutely running for the right reasons," Cobb said in a sit-down interview with the Raycom News network.
The former Alabama chief justice says as governor she can remove the anchors that are holding Alabama back and believes she can provide a new voice and perspective around the world for Alabama.
"I can't imagine a better way than to hire a woman with my career and my history as the spokesperson to the United States," Cobb says.
If elected Cobb wants to expand Medicaid, institute her "Lifelong Learner Lottery", enter into a compact with Alabama's Native Americans, and also institute at least a fuel tax increase to pay for infrastructure repairs.
Cobb believes a rising tide lifts all ships as long as anchors are not holding the boats back. She thinks Alabama has too many anchors but plans to remove them if elected.
WHO IS SUE BELL COBB
Sue Bell Cobb was born in Conecuh, Alabama, and first became a judge at the age of 25.
"Putting on a robe at 25, making those tough decisions day in day out on people's lives had a huge impact on my life," she explained. From there, she traveled the state where she was often one of the first women to ever preside as a judge in many counties.
In 2007 Cobb became Alabama's first female state chief justice where she pushed for things like sentencing reform. Cobb stepped down from the high court in 2011 before finishing her term, leading to some candidates and members of the public to say she quit the job.
"I underestimated how disappointed people were going to be," Cobb explained, saying she stepped down to spend more time with her family, including her mother, who eventually passed away.
"The women get it, that women are required to do a lot of balancing," Cobb said, "and for 30 years my focus was nothing but the courts."
"We've got to expand Medicaid," Cobb contends. She believes former Gov. Robert Bentley's decision to not expand Medicaid costs the state billions of dollars and "no telling the lives."
Cobb says the Medicaid program is vital to keep rural hospitals open, a claim backed up by Alabama's Medicaid Agency, itself, as it has fought for increased funding amounts in the legislature over the last few years.
Cobb says if she is not elected, many of the hospitals could be at risk.
"If Sue Bell Cobb is not elected on June 5 and doesn't become governor, I predict 20 percent or more of rural hospitals are going to close," she predicts.
The question, though, with expanding Medicaid is how to pay for the increase. Cobb says the state could work the "pharmaceutical side" to take out the middle-man. She believes savings generated would be enough to expand Medicaid to 120 percent of the poverty line.
Any additional funds could be found through things like a compact with Native Americans or even legalizing sports betting.
Cobb also proposes taking hospitals' unused beds and turning them into locations to help those with substance abuse problems.
EDUCATION AND THE LOTTERY
"I am advocating what I'm calling the 'Lifelong Learner Lottery," says Cobb, the main component of her education plan.
Cobb contends her lottery would generate $300 million, a common estimate for a lottery's revenue. Here's how that would break down:
- The lottery would send $75 million to fully fund kindergarten for 4-year-olds.
- Another $30-35 million would go toward childcare on a sliding scale, as Cobb says childcare would become more expensive if 4-year-old kindergarten is paid for.
- About $50 million would go to fully fund vocational or career tech programs where Cobb says the money would be enough to have “state-of-the-art” instructors and equipment.
- The rest of the money would go toward filling any gap for students with Pell grants, covering the remainder of the expenses.
Cobb says the plan would say to the world Alabama's "children are ready to succeed when they get to school."
She would call a lottery-focused special session of the legislature within the first 30 days, which would happen within the regular session to prevent additional costs to the taxpayer.
"We can truly bring in more jobs when we maximize workforce development," Cobb says.
For Cobb, bringing in more jobs is directly connected with education, fixing the skill gap employers say exist. However, after improving education, Cobb thinks the state needs to improve its national reputation.
"I can't imagine a better way than to hire a woman with my career and my history as the spokesperson to the United States."
Cobb says she would raise taxes, specifically an increase to the fuel tax. The state has not increased its fuel tax in more than two decades and she says the money would go to improve infrastructure.
"There is so much that needs to be done, there is going to be more revenue to fix it," Cobb states.
Another ambitious goal for a Cobb administration would be making Interstate 65 three lanes in every direction from every major city.