By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday’s speech was Gov. Robert Bentley’s second State of the State Speech and it comes after a very eventful first year dominated by tornados, joblessness, and a bitter immigration debate.
Gov. Bentley began his speech with the announcement that the state has made some progress on job growth. “I’m pleased to report that since we took office, 41,000 more Alabamians are working. That’s 41 thousand more Alabamians earning a paycheck today than a year ago. “ “We have recruited over 13,000 new, future jobs to Alabama. International companies from India, Germany and Japan and right here in the United States are investing more that 3 point 2 billion dollars in our state and in our people.”
Gov. Bentley also took the moment to make the big announcement of the copper wire plant: “A Chinese company will bring up to 500 new jobs to Wilcox County.”
Gov. Bentley pointed to success in rebuilding the Wrangler Distribution Center in Hackleburg after the April tornado. “Wrangler executives heard our message and agreed to not only rebuild in Hackleburg, but to expand from 150 jobs to 250 jobs for the community.”
The Governor laid out an agenda to make Alabama more attractive to employers. “We will also present an aggressive jobs agenda as a top priority in this Legislative Session and that will give our economic recruiters new tools to grow jobs in Alabama.” “I am proposing new investment in our workforce development and career tech programs.” “We will make sure any rule or regulation that stands in the way of economic development is eliminated. We will free our businesses from unnecessary, bureaucratic road blocks.”
Governor Bentley also pitched his proposed bond issue for roads: “A concern I have heard over and over is the need for better roads and bridges to lead to greater economic opportunities and to improve their quality of life for all our citizens.” “Trucks, school buses, farm equipment must now be diverted in parts of our rural areas due to bridges that need repair. We have an obligation to preserve the roads we now have and fix our bridges.” “We have the ability to finance a major infrastructure program. We will work with local leaders to identify what roads need repair and we will get them fixed as soon as possible. With the use of GARVEE Bonds we can achieve this without raising taxes or taking money from our state savings account.”
Gov. Bentley said that state government is still going to be frugal: “We face a major funding shortfall in our General Fund. We have 25% less money to provide basic services.”
Gov. Bentley reaffirmed his pledge not to raise taxes. “We are not going to raise her taxes. I promised the people of this state that I would not raise taxes on the people of Alabama, and I am going to keep my word.” “I will oppose any effort to raise taxes on Alabama families, and I will veto any tax increase.” Does that mean that Gov. Bentley will veto any occupation taxes in Jefferson County?
“In our General Fund, we will protect the Alabama Department of Public Safety. Nothing is more important than ensuring the safety of our citizens.” “Our most vulnerable seniors and children depend on critical services from the Department of Human Resources. I want them to know we will protect them at every turn.” “We will not cut one penny from the Department of Corrections. Not one single prisoner will be set free due to a lack of funds,” Gov. Bentley said.
Gov. Bentley said, “We must reduce the size and scope of government and we have already begun this process.” “I will propose legislation that consolidates a number of state agencies.” “We will modernize outdated systems within state government by taking advantage of the latest technology to save $100 million dollars over 10 years.” “We will streamline our licensing procedures which will produce greater efficiency and significant savings for taxpayers.” “The process of cutting, reducing and saving taxpayers money will never stop as long as I’m Governor.”
Gov. Bentley said, “In my education budget, the Alabama Reading Initiative, ACCESS Distance Learning, the Alabama Math Science and Technology Initiative, Advance Placement and our highly successful Pre K programs will all be protected.” “We will protect funds that provide transportation.” “We also provide meals to our children who need them – sometimes twice a day.” “We will ensure no child goes hungry.”
Gov. Bentley appeared to advocate moving children’s Medicaid programs from the General Fund to the Education fund: “We know that the healthcare of our children is critical to their learning process. That is why I am proposing that we invest more of our education dollars in the well-being of our children. We will make sure children are ready to compete and learn, knowing that they have access to the health care services they need and deserve.”
Gov. Bentley endorsed a limited Charter Schools plan. Gov. Bentley said, “I will propose The School Flexibility Act of 2012, which will allow more decision-making at the local level.” “We will give local school systems the ability to develop their own innovative strategies, free from state or federal bureaucracy.” “We are going to pass public charter school legislation in Alabama because our children and parents, and yes, teachers deserve a choice.”
Gov. Bentley proposed a new tax credit for teachers: “our teachers spend hundreds of dollars of their own money on their classrooms. Today, I propose a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for every teacher in this state who spends their money on their classroom.”
Gov. Bentley said, “I will form a “Teacher Cabinet”, made up of teachers, administrators, school board members, and parents. These leaders will provide my administration with unfiltered feedback on the needs of our public schools.” “I want to hear directly without the filter and spin of Montgomery lobbyists.” Gov. Bentley announced the appointing of Dr. Gay Barnes (Alabama’s Teacher of the Year) and Jeremy Raper, a physics teacher, to the new cabinet.
Gov. Bentley said Alabama has some lifestyle related health issues: “We have to improve our overall health. In every report detailing the health of our state – the news is not good. Alabama consistently is at the bottom of almost every health ranking including rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and infant mortality.” “That is not acceptable.”
Gov. Bentley finished: “We need to do everything we can to give people the opportunity to make their lives better, whether it’s in helping them get a good job, a good education or just being healthier. By working together we can make that happen.”