Senate President Del Marsh, R-Anniston, told reporters Saturday that the governor’s office asked the leadership to prepare the “wish list” that Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey released last week when she denounced legislators for trying to seize control of $1.8 billion into CARES Act funding Congress appropriated to the state to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
“The governor is angry,” Marsh explained.
State Sen. Greg Albritton, the chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee, said that the meeting that prepared the wish list was over two weeks earlier and there were eight to ten people there.
Marsh defended his inclusion of a new State House, a $200 million expenditure citing the continuing mold problems and the impossibility of social distancing in cramped committee rooms.
“The House could not even function,” Marsh said of the House’s inability to accommodate committee members, the press, the staff, and security during the last week of the legislative session with the new six-foot between persons social distancing requirements in any committee room other than room 200.
The Alabama State House was built in 1963 as an office building for the Alabama Highway Department, today the Alabama Department of Transportation. In the 1980’s it was converted into a home for the Legislature while long overdue renovations were done to the Alabama Capitol building, which was built in 1859. The legislature never moved back across the street.
Albritton said that the State House was on the list but it was “last on the list.”
Marsh said his priority is expanding broadband so that every community has broadband access.
Our children could be at home learning instead of sitting around doing nothing, Marsh told reporters, if the state had broadband already in place. Marsh said that every citizen needs to have access to E-learning and telehealth.
Marsh said that the money should be used for one-time capital expenditures.
The state has to spend the money by December 31 or it goes back to the federal government.
The Legislature passed a supplemental general fund appropriation bill giving the governor use of up to $200 million of the money for emergency coronavirus crisis needs. The governor would have to call back the legislature to appropriate the rest of the money.
Marsh predicted that there would be two special sessions, one to deal with this, other coronavirus issues and unfinished business from the shortened regular session. The other special session would be to address the recommendations from the Governor’s prison reform task force.
On Thursday, the legislature passed the state general fund (SGF) budget and sent it to the Governor. On Saturday, the legislature passed the education trust fund (ETF) budget and sent it to the Governor. The legislature prepares two budgets, one for education and the other for non-education agencies. Both are all time record highs.
The difficult part of preparing the budgets was predicting what state revenues would be given the forced economic shutdown to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
Albritton predicted that the economy would “snap back” once the economy was reopened and people returned to work.
9,889 Alabamians have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to this point and 393 Alabamians have died.