By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) addressed the state legislature on Tuesday to deliver his annual state of the state speech on the day that the Alabama legislature returned to Montgomery for the 2013 legislative session.
Gov. Bentley said, “Alabama IS our Sweet Home. And we want it to be a place where economic opportunity abounds and there are good-paying jobs, where children can get a good education, where counties and cities can build roads to compete for businesses and industries and where millions of taxpayer dollars are not being spent… they are being saved.”
Bentley said that putting Alabamians back to work is his biggest priority and he has had success at making that from Mobile (Airbus) to Hackleburg (Wrangler). Bentley said that Airbus is forever changing our economic landscape.
Bentley said, “Alabama’s economy saw some of the most dramatic improvements of any state over the last three months of 2012. When factors such as total jobs, unemployment, total wages and hours worked in manufacturing are combined, only four other states saw stronger growth than Alabama.”
The Governor praised, “ATRIP – the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program – allows counties to make much-needed repairs to roads and bridges. As of this week, 439 road and bridge projects have been approved. 61 of Alabama’s 67 counties are seeing their roads repaired and bridges fixed. 614 million dollars in projects have been approved.”
Bentley said that he created the College and Career Ready Task Force to work toward producing a skilled work force.
Bentley said that he is committed to right sizing state government. “We are holding true to our commitment to right-size government. If Washington wants to know how to fix the nation’s budget crisis, they need to look no further than the example set by the states – and especially the state of Alabama. While the federal government is in debt over 16 trillion dollars, we have identified over 750 million dollars in savings for taxpayers in just two years.” Bentley said that the state has 4,000 fewer state workers.
Bentley said that the state budgets are both “slightly better” than last year’s.
Bentley said that he is committed to repaying the $437 million that the state raided from the trust fund to prop up the general fund. Gov. Bentley said, “We must honor the trust of the people who supported the September 18th Amendment. I said when we passed the amendment that we would pay it back. That’s exactly what we are going to do. The first bill delivered to my desk must be one that requires re-payment to Alabama Trust Fund. Send me that bill, and I will sign it. We must keep our word to the people of this state, and we must pay our debts.”
Bentley said that Alabama became the first state to implement an online license and tag verification which is expected to save hundreds of thousands of dollars and decrease the number of uninsured motor vehicles on the road. E-verify is expected to save the state $4 million and paperless offices will save more money.
Gov. Bentley asked for more funding for pre-kindergarten, ”I truly believe by allowing greater access to a voluntary Pre-K education, we will change the lives of children in Alabama.”
Bentley threatened to take over more failing school systems (like it did with the City of Birmingham’s schools) when schools chronically underperform. “We will take action to change schools that continue to fail because our children deserve better.”
Bentley asked that the legislature increase pay for teachers and education support personnel by 2.5%. The Governor said, “As our economy improves, I expect this increase to be the start of what we hope will be greater and more frequent raises for our teachers.”
Bentley acknowledged that 50 years ago Alabama was on center stage of the Civil Rights movement. “This city, this very building, and many in this room would bear witness to events that changed history.”
Bentley said, “By year’s end, Alabama would see many peaceful protestors jailed for daring to advocate equal treatment for all people. The University of Alabama would enroll its first African-American students. Four little girls killed inside their place of worship during Sunday School. The rising up of thousands who marched to this building knowing they were endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. That was fifty years ago.
Gov. Bentley said, “In Alabama, we are people who work hard; we help our neighbors in time of need and gladly serve our fellow citizens. We also proudly defend our Nation and its Freedoms as soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. I want to do everything I can to make the lives of our citizens better, our communities stronger and our children safer. Fifty years ago, the eyes of the world were on Alabama. Today, let’s invite the world to look to Alabama again. And let’s show them a state that works together, one that innovates and creates economic opportunity for all its citizens, regardless of color, regardless of gender, and regardless of politics. A place we can all call Sweet Home Alabama.”
Governor Robert Bentley was a state representative from Tuscaloosa before his election to Governor in 2010.