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Governor Ivey talks relief funds, proposes tax rebates during State of the State

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey delivers her State of the State address Tuesday, March 7, 2023, in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Julie Bennett)
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FR170675 AP
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey delivers her State of the State address Tuesday, March 7, 2023, in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Julie Bennett)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey used her annual State of the State address to call an anticipated special session on pandemic relief funds and propose one-time tax rebates of up to $400 per taxpayer and $800 for families. Ivey addressed lawmakers on the opening night of the 2023 legislative session where key issues include how to use the state's remaining pandemic relief funds as well as a $2.8 billion education budget surplus. Lawmakers returned to Montgomery on Tuesday with a focus on how to use the state's remaining $1 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act, the sweeping $1.9 trillion relief plan proposed by the Biden White House and approved by Congress to help the country climb out of the coronavirus crisis.

Ivey is beginning her final full term in office. She addressed lawmakers on the opening night of the 2023 legislative session where key issues include how to use the state's remaining pandemic relief funds as well as a $2.8 billion education budget surplus. Ivey's proposal for the budget surplus includes the one-time rebates.

The governor outlined an agenda for the legislative session that also included 2% pay raises for teachers, seeking to raise starting salaries to be the highest in the Southeast by the end of her term, mandatory kindergarten before starting first grade, and more start-up money for charter schools. Democratic legislative leaders countered that Ivey could better help working families by removing the state 4% grocery tax on food or expanding Medicaid to cover working poor families.

Lawmakers returned to Montgomery on Tuesday with a focus on how to use the state's remaining $1 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act — the sweeping $1.9 trillion relief plan approved by Congress to help the country climb out of the coronavirus crisis. Ivey called a special session, which will begin Wednesday, to isolate the issue. The American Rescue Plan steered $2.1 billion to Alabama. State lawmakers have so far used the money for water and sewer projects, broadband expansion and healthcare costs. They also steered $400 million to a controversial prison construction plan, brushing off criticism from congressional Democrats that the money was not intended for such projects.

As the governor spoke inside the Alabama Capitol, family members of people who have died in state prisons gathered outside for a candlelight vigil to try to draw attention to what they said is a worsening humanitarian crisis inside state lockups. Holding photos of their deceased loved ones, family members described how they were killed in assaults and by overdoses and accused Ivey and lawmakers of ignoring the problem.

Ivey said she is seeking start-up funds for more charter schools and improvements to the state charter school law and to the Alabama Accountability Act, which gives tax credits to fund private school scholarships. However, some lawmakers are seeking more sweeping changes.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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