House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels issued a response to Governor Kay Ivey’s 2020 State of the State address, saying Ivey’s speech charts a course in the right direction but that he also believes more can be done to address issues across the state.
“It’s time to get to work & Governor Ivey has charted a course that shows promise in direction,” Daniels said. “Her commitment to our state is going in the right direction but I believe that we can do even more to ensure that our youngest stars can ascend to greatness.”
Daniels called for more investments in education funding and supporting teachers to help prepare Alabamians to meet the demands of the job market. He also addressed Alabama’s ranking at 52nd in standardized math test scores in the latest report from the National Assessment of Education Performance.
“It is not acceptable that Alabama is 52nd in standardized math test scores,” Daniels said. “How do we expect to attract companies and young families to a state where learning seems so far behind?”
In her address, Ivey proposed a three percent pay raise for teachers, additional capital spending and more funding for education programs.
Daniels also called for solutions to address access to affordable, quality healthcare, including mental health services and addiction treatment options, calling for the expansion of Medicaid to address these issues.
“Expanding medicaid in Alabama would mean health coverage for more than 300,000 residents, not to mention the creation of about 30,000 new jobs,” Daniels said. “The bottom line is no working man or woman should be an accident or diagnosis away from financial ruin. Alabama families should not have to worry that an unexpected sickness will deplete their life savings.”
Ivey said in her speech that there will be funding for a pilot program to incentivize primary care physicians and nurse practitioners to establish services in medically underserved areas.
Daniels also called for an urgent response to the state’s criminal justice challenges and prison crisis, including looking into community based treatment and supervision alternatives.
“When we spend nearly a billion dollars on new prisons, it’s time to take a hard, close look at the policies and practices that feed our overpopulated and under-resourced system,” Daniels said. “Alabama cannot just build its way out of this crisis.”
Ivey addressed prison reform in her speech, saying that her administration is exploring a plan to build three new prisons to fix problems with overcrowding and a shortage of correctional officers.
Daniels addressed a need to invest in public infrastructure and access to broadband in rural areas, an issue that Ivey mentioned in her address, saying that her administration’s efforts “will not end until every Alabamian has access through high speed broadband.”
Daniels also called for innovative workforce opportunities for young Alabamians and policies that provide access to careers that sustain families and communities.
“Although we’re seeing the benefits of a low unemployment rate, let’s not forget that 27 out of 67 counties have experienced growth in poverty,” Daniels said. “Yes, our cities are growing and thriving but again, we cannot afford to neglect our rural areas.”
Ivey stated in her address that she has a goal of adding 500,000 employees with post-secondary credentials by 2025, also calling on the Legislature to provide a two percent pay increase for all state employees.
Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington reported in December that Alabama ended the year with a record low unemployment rate of 2.7 percent.
Federal figures show that only 12 of Alabama’s 67 counties have a median household income of over $50,000, as of 2018.
Daniels also called for policies that encourage fair districts and increased turnout at the ballots, expanding access to early voting, automatic voter registration, no excuse absentee voting and permanent mail ballot delivery. He also called for the implementation of an independent redistricting commission “to end Gerrymandering and take the influence of politics out of redistricting.”
“Let all of our voices become one as we watch our next set of Alabama stars rise up into the heavens and become a unified beacon for others to follow. It’s time, Alabama. It’s time.”