Connect with us

Economy

House passes general fund budget, 2 percent state employee pay increase

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the state general fund budget, HB152, on Tuesday. HB152 is sponsored by House Ways and Means Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark. HB152 passed 103 to 0.

The House also passed HB166, sponsored by the late Rep. Dimitri Polizos, R-Montgomery, to give state employees a 2 percent cost of living allowance. There was no bonus for retired employees.

State Rep. Kelvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville, handled HB166 on the House floor after Polizos unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack.

Lawrence said the pay raise bill has a fiscal note of $40 million. HB166 passed 103 to 0. Chairman Clouse said the budget is “a process. It is like putting a big puzzle together.”

The state has one budget for the state general fund and a second budget for education, the education trust fund. The state also has billions of dollars in off the budget funding from other sources and billions in federal matching dollars.

The 2020 fiscal year SGF budget that passed the House funds the SGF $2,145,825,797. The FY 2019 SGF was $2,054.901,265 and the 2018 SGF was just over $1.9 billion.

The Alabama Department of Corrections will receive $517,053,750 in the 2020 general fund budget. The budget includes additional money to offer more money for prison guards in order to recruit and retain more guards. ADOC hopes to hire an additional 500 guards. The federal government has recently cited the state for its chronically underfunded and understaffed prisons.

Public Service Announcement

The Alabama Department of Mental Health received $127,929,306 in the SGF.

The Alabama Medicaid Agency was budgeted $703,419,531, a substantial decrease from 2019 due to the improving economy and some one time money from a tobacco settlement.

Rep. Kerry Rich said there are not enough beds for the mentally ill.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We are not going to pass any new taxes,” Rich said. “If we are going to fix it, it is with a lottery. That will bring in $100 million, maybe $150 million. If we did a compact with the Poarch Creek Indians that would bring in $850 million a year.”

Clouse said he is proposing carrying over $105 million from the 2020 fiscal year budget to the 2021 fiscal year budget because he anticipates that the state will have to increase its funding of the Children Health Insurance Program by over $70 million and will need more funding for Medicaid.

“We know that we are going to have to come up with at least $110 million more next year for CHIP and Medicaid,” Clouse said.

“Down the road there is a dinosaur waiting to eat us up,” said State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham. “We got to bite the bullet to put the money in the general fund to help the people of Alabama.”

State Representative Artis “A.J.”McCampbell, D-Livingston, said the state has been given 60 days to present a plan to address the federal government’s concerns about Alabama’s prison system.

“We are now considered to have the most violent prison system in the country,” said State Rep. Christopher John England, D-Tuscaloosa.

“Mega prisons are absolutely not the way to go,” England said. “If the current leadership remains in place they are going to be as dangerous and as poorly run as they are now. The same person who has been in charge the last four years should not be given a billion dollars to spend on new prisons.”

England warned the Ivey administration will get us tied into a private prison lease agreement that we will never be able to get out of.

“We don’t know what the governor is going to ask to build the new prisons,” said State Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Prichard. “We have got to get some revenue from somewhere.”

Rogers said there is not enough money in an Alabama lottery. He suggested legalizing sports betting and possibly raising property taxes in order to better fund prisons and expand Medicaid.

Clouse said expanding Medicaid would cost the state general fund budget $168 million a year.

“When there are 200 prisoners to one guard, who is really running the prisons? The prisoners are,” Rogers said. “You can’t give a man enough money to risk his life.”

Reporters asked Clouse how many new prison guards will be hired and how much the pay will be raised for guards.

“The goal is to hire the 500,” Clouse said. “The goal is a 20 percent pay raise.”

“What is the cost of building three new prisons?” Clouse said. “We are waiting to see if that is feasible and if that is the way the governor wants to go.”

“The governor has been very communicative with the legislative leadership to try to find an answer on this,” Clouse said. “We have got to see what the cost is. There are a lot of concerns about the cost of lease deal.”

Clouse said the increase for ADOC this year will be to “try to secure more staff, security and hiring more mental health professionals.”

“It has been very difficult to find employees in this environment,” he said.

Clouse also said Medicaid will need $40 million more next year, 2021, and the CHIP will need $70 million more, and that is before any additional needs from Corrections or Mental Health.

Clouse told reporters he was happy to be able to offer a pay increase to state employees.

“That was certainly not on our radar four or five months ago, plus we were able to keep insurance rates from going up,” Clouse said.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

Advertisement

Economy

New unemployment claims increased last week

More people joined the unemployment rolls last week than the week before.

Micah Danney

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

There were 8,581 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, up from 7,732 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. 

Of the claims filed between Oct. 4 and Oct. 10, there were 3,125 related to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s 36 percent, compared to 51 percent the previous week.

Continue Reading

Economy

Governor announces $1.5 million grant to expand job training at Bevill State Community College

The expanded facility will help train people in welding and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning and other trades. 

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

Gov. Kay Ivey and the Appalachian Regional Commission this week announced a $1.5 million grant to renovate and expand a training facility at Bevill State Community College. 

The expanded facility will help train people in welding and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning and other trades. 

“Alabamians are eager to work, and we are eager for them to find jobs that will allow them to earn a good living,” Ivey said in a statement. “These funds will help more Alabamians answer the call to the state’s increasing demand for jobs in these fields. I am thankful for our partnership with the Appalachian Regional Commission and the assistance they have provided in helping us respond to in-demand issues.”

The grant comes from Appalachian Regional Commission’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization initiative, which targets areas affected by the closing of coal mining and coal-related industries, according to a press release from Ivey’s office. 

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs administers the ARC program in Alabama.

“This grant is a shot in the arm for an Alabama economy that has maintained its poise during the cessation of coal industries and then the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” ADECA director Kenneth Boswell said in a statement. “ADECA is pleased to join with Gov. Ivey, ARC, Bevill State Community College and many other partners in this life-changing program.”

Dr. Chris Cox, Bevill State interim president, said the program will allow for scholarships for workers who lost jobs in coal-related industries.

Public Service Announcement

“This rapid training center expansion will help establish a career pipeline to support local manufacturing industries, will serve to diversify the region’s economy and will increase post-secondary students’ access to advanced training and completion of industry-recognized certifications,” Cox said in a statement.

Continue Reading

Economy

New Ford Bronco will use newer, lighter steel made in Alabama at ArcelorMittal

ArcelorMittal is also in preliminary negotiations with Ford on supplying the steel for other vehicles.

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

The 2021 Ford Bronco made of Gen 3 steel supplied by ArcelorMittal boasts a sporty look and can navigate difficult terrain. (VIA FORD)

ArcelorMittal in Mobile County was selected as the sole Gen 3 steel supplier for the 2021 Ford Bronco. This vehicle will be the first automobile in the world to incorporate Fortiform 980 GI, which is made at ArcelorMittal’s AM/NS facility in Calvert, Alabama.

Ford is placing a huge priority on light weighting and safety for the new Bronco and this steel grade accomplishes both, most notably helping to decrease the total vehicle weight by 10 percent making it more fuel efficient.

Steel, however, is stronger than aluminum or plastic thus making a safer vehicle whose occupants are more likely to survive an automobile crash.

ArcelorMittal’s co-engineering capabilities, helped foster the close collaboration between ArcelorMittal R&D and Ford’s design and welding experts. This synergy played a pivotal role in this project.

President Donald Trump’s administration has prioritized the encouragement of American steel manufacturing in trade negotiations. Tariffs placed on cheap foreign steel being allegedly dumped in the American market have made it advantageous to use American produced steel.

Both ArcelorMIttal and U.S. Steel have begun building new electric arc furnaces at their facilities in Alabama.

“In Alabama, we are witnessing immediate results from terms the Trump administration outlined in the USMCA, specifically the requirement for the automobile industry to utilize more steel made in North America,” said economic developer Nicole Jones. “Ford, an iconic American company, established a rigorous application process to become the Gen 3 steel supplier for the 2021 Ford Bronco, and Alabama-based ArcelorMittal met the challenge.”

Public Service Announcement

ArcelorMittal is in preliminary negotiations with Ford on supplying the steel for other vehicles. The company is negotiating with Ford and other original equipment manufacturers on how the world-class Fortiform 980 GI can meet their stringent lightweighting and safety targets for the vehicles of tomorrow.

“Metals and advanced materials are one of our state’s dominant industries,” Jones said. “Alabama Department of Commerce data from 2018 shows that primary metal manufacturing exports valued at nearly $1.6 billion, and fabricated metal manufacturing exports valued at $382 million. The direct and indirect jobs resulting from ArcelorMittal’s projects provide significant economic benefits for south Alabama and our entire state.”

Once ArcelorMittal completes its new electric arc furnace steelmaking facility at AM/NS Calvert, the company will have the capability of producing 1.5 million metric tonnes of steel slabs for the Hot Strip Mill and producing a broad spectrum of steel grades required for Calvert’s end-user markets including the automotive industry.

ADVERTISEMENT

“An electric arc furnace at Calvert makes strategic sense as it allows our asset to be more reactive to the local market as well as being in line with the USMCA,” said Lakshmi Mittal, the chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, referring to the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement on trade which replaced NAFTA. ”Furthermore, it aligns with our ambition of producing smarter steels for a better world.”

ArcelorMittal is investing more than $500 million at its Mobile County mill to help the company serve customers.

AM/NS Calvert is the world’s most advanced steel finishing facility and demonstrates the highly successful partnership between ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel Corporation.

AM/NS Calvert was originally built by Thyssenkrupp, with a total investment cost of $4 billion. The plant was acquired by ArcelorMittal and NSC as a 50-50 joint venture in 2014.

The joint venture has already invested more than $200 million into strategic projects in Calvert since its acquisition, before the ongoing planned $500 million expansion.

ArcelorMittal is the world’s leading steel and mining company. It has a presence in 60 countries and operates steelmaking facilities in 18 countries. In 2019, ArcelorMittal had revenues of $70.6 billion and crude steel production of 89.8 million metric tonnes, while iron ore production reached 57.1 million metric tonnes.

ArcelorMittal says that their goal is to help build a better world with smarter steels.

Steels made using innovative processes which use less energy, emit significantly less carbon and reduce costs. Steels that are cleaner, stronger and reusable. Steels for electric vehicles and renewable energy infrastructure that will support societies as they transform through this century.

Continue Reading

Economy

Port of Mobile sets another export coal shipment record

All the cargo loaded at McDuffie consisted of Alabama metallurgical grade coal bound for Asian markets. 

Staff

Published

on

By

A sky view of downtown Mobile and the Port of Mobile.

The Alabama State Port Authority set another export coal shipment record loading 146,479 short tons — or 132,883.5 metric tons — at its McDuffie Coal Terminal. 

The coal was loaded to the Newcastle Max class bulk carrier, NSU WELFARE, which matches the previous record bulk ship to call the port measuring 984.2 feet in length overall, known as LOA, with a width of 164.3 feet.

All the cargo loaded at McDuffie consisted of Alabama metallurgical grade coal bound for Asian markets. 

Rick Clark, deputy director and chief operating officer for the Port Authority, noted the increased Newcastle Max calls match increasing Post-Panamax vessel calls into Mobile, in part due to ongoing infrastructure investments.

“We’re not only deepening the channel to -50 ft. draft, we are also investing in shore-side infrastructure at McDuffie to improve throughput efficiencies and expand export capacity,” the authority said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Port Authority recently signed the project agreement to let channel construction contracts by year-end 2020. The USACE awarded the first of six contracts to Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company LLC on Sept. 28, 2020.

The $8.3 million contract will construct to -50 feet approximately two miles of channel including the port’s entrance.

Public Service Announcement

The harbor improvements along with the Port Authority’s planned multi-phase, $45 million capital improvement program at McDuffie are oriented toward meeting increasing vessel size and projected shipper demand.

Bernard Scott, manager of McDuffie Terminal, noted, “We’re striving to match terminal improvements with our channel expansion. Our focus shore-side will be in new equipment, equipment upgrades and yard management to accommodate the anticipated export coal needs of our customers.” 

Alabama’s metallurgical coal market is in demand and on the upswing with nearly $1.4 billion in recent or planned mining investments. Alabama’s low sulfur, high quality coking coal is ideally suited for steelmakers.

ADVERTISEMENT

Currently, Alabama holds about 4 billion tons of economically recoverable coal reserves, with 80 percent of those reserves comprised of metallurgical grade coal, according to a 2019 Auburn University at Montgomery economic impact study 

The Alabama State Port Authority owns and operates the state of Alabama’s deep-water port facilities at the Port of Mobile and its public facilities handle more than 26 million tons of cargo annually.

The authority’s container, general cargo and bulk facilities have immediate access to two interstate systems, five Class 1 railroads, and nearly 15,000 miles of inland waterway connections.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement