By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
In her first post announcement interview, Gov. Kay Ivey spoke with the Alabama Political Reporter about her priorities, how she views the governor’s role in facing the challenges and changes that she sees will in the coming years and how she will lead the state with selfless devotion.
“The people of Alabama deserve a governor that’s focused on the issues, the people’s issues not the politicians,” Ivey said. “Good jobs and bigger paychecks, that allows them to provide for their families and I’m up to the task.”
More jobs and better opportunities for the people of the state underline the broad themes Ivey sees as her administration’s tasks.
Soon after taking office Ivey embarked on a “Listen, Learn, Help & Lead Tour,” which has taken her around the state to learn the needs of the individual communities she travels through with site visits and roundtable discussions with local government officials, business leaders and educators.
“We know that by the year 2020, 62 percent of all the jobs in Alabama will require some kind of certification past high school, such a two-year certificate, or a two-year or four-year degree,” said Ivey. “So I’ll certainly be supporting education, and economic development both are high on my list.”
She says that along with educating a qualified work force, the state will require infrastructure improvements that will support economic growth. Ivey believes this will demand government operates “leaner and more efficient.”
For education, Ivey emphasized not only the role of Pre-K through 12, but also expanding higher education that produces top engineers, scientists and other Ph.D. level programs.
In a recent trip to her alma mater Auburn University, Ivey said, “Education is the heartbeat of our state,” as reported by The Auburn Plainsman.
On the topic of ethics laws, Ivey told APR she favors the state’s current stringent ethics code but wants to clarify existing laws so that individuals “Don’t get caught up in confusion.” Adding, “I’ll be proud to look at the recommendations from the attorney general and the Legislature to provide clarity to the ethics laws.”
Current Attorney General Steve Marshall, a former Democrat appointed by disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley, failed to bring forward a widely accepted ethics reform bill last Legislative Session. The bill was painstakingly constructed and supported in the Senate by President Pro Tem Del Marsh, in the House by Speaker Mac McCutcheon as well as business leaders and lobbyists.
Marshall reportedly will come with a package in the next session, but there are concerns he is being influenced by those who would “clarify” current laws in a way that would weaken them.
Marshall, as well as Ivey, have accepted substantial campaign contributions from those with interests in amending ethics statutes in a manner that run contrary to the legislation studiously drafted under the leadership of former Attorney General Chief Deputy Alice Martin and Public Corruption Prosecutor Matt Hart.
In her APR interview, Ivey said there are many ways to restore public trust in government.
“The bottom line is, for too long the culture of state government in Montgomery has been to put politicians’ needs ahead of the public’s needs,” said Ivey. “And I’ll continue to work hard to keep the people in focus with my mission and duty being to lead state departments and our state by serving the public trust.”
On a state lottery, Ivey previously said she “absolutely supported the people’s right to vote on a lottery,” but failed to engage when asked by APR for specifics, retiring to talking points on how the state needed to operate within its means.
With what seems to be a never-ending lack of ready cash to fund government’s essential services a lottery is proposed to shore-up the anemic general fund budget. Very few people still believe there is much fat left to cut from basic services without further diminishing the state’s ability to meet even modest civil demands, such as police, fire and prison funding.
Ivey also expressed her concern with the state’s retirements system, which requires the state’s taxpayer provided some of its financings.
“Well certainly we want to provide a very – quality retirement system for all who are eligible to receive it,” said Ivey. “First of all, the people of Alabama don’t even realize they are providing almost a billion dollars a year for the retirement, in addition to what people pay for it, so that’s a huge issue.”
Ivey says her administration will be addressing the matter at an appropriate time, “Because it’s our duty to provide a quality retirement program for our people.”
In conclusion, Ivey said she would use the Governor’s Bully Pulpit to press an agenda that moves the people’s business forward while working with state leadership.
“Well, one of my priorities always has been to work with full communication to the members of the Legislature, House and Senate majority and minority,” Ivey said. “And I will continue to do that.”
Ivey says she enjoys a “trustworthy relationship” with lawmakers and thinks, “There are more legislators who want to move the state forward than there are who don’t. So yes, I will be using my influence in a positive way to move this state forward with the help of the Legislature and other officials who are elected by the people.”
Ivey is intent on working across the aisle as well to ensure that all the state’s citizens are represented and not just a few.
“Recently I met with the Senate caucus – minority caucus in Birmingham and had a good discussion with them. Certainly, I know [Minority leader] Anthony [Daniels], and he is a fine young man who’s providing solid leadership, and we’ll be having more dialogue and interaction with legislators as we move forward,” Ivey said.
Ivey’s conservative credentials are solid and well known, which is why she doesn’t need to pretend there is an us-against-them mentality in her administration. Ivey says she is governor of all the state, and that her priorities include everyone.