Ivey calls for pay raises, broadband

Published 9:49 am Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Gov. Kay Ivey called for pay raises for teachers and state employees, and better broadband access in rural areas of the state in her first state of the state address Tuesday night.

Ivey, who became governor at the half-way point of the 2017 legislative session when Robert Bentley stepped down from the office, said she has spent her time in office listening to and learning from the people of Alabama. She declared the ship of state righted.

“We have the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded in the state’s history,” she said. “News of our economic successes seem to be a daily occurrence.”

Pointing to Tuesday’s announcement that Kimber Firearms will build a $38 million facility in Troy and employ 366 people as an example, she said, “What we are doing is working.”

Because of its strong economy, Ivey said, Alabama is this year in the “unfamiliar position” of having a good budget year.

“In an improving economy, we generally fund state programs, but also expand,” she said. “It is tempting to spend generously.”

But Ivey said she will advocate paying down Alabama’s debt earlier than required, and fund programs with “prudence and care.”

With the words, “Tonight, I am proposing a pay raise for all teachers and all state employees,” Ivey received a standing ovation. She did not, however, disclose details of those raises. Earlier in the day, it was suggested she would seek a 2 percent raise for educators and a 3 percent raise for state employees.

She also said that the strong economy is lessening the demand for state Medicaid funding.

“Medicaid will require less appropriations than expected,” she said.

She also said the legislature must address issues in the prison system, including “worn and old” facilities.

The governor, who is a Camden native, said rural communities have a very special place in her heart as she called for legislation to encourage strong broadband investments, which she called an economic development issue.

She also called for the establishment of the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering in Huntsville, based on the models of the state’s Alabama School of Fine Arts and Alabama School of Math and Science.

“Just as Huntsville is on the leading edge of rocket and aerospace industries, we must put Alabama students at the forefront of today’s emerging technologies,” she said.

She also said she will seek an additional $23 million in funding for pre-K programs.