Alabama governor requests $1 billion of bonds for schools
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey wants lawmakers to approve issuing $1 billion of bonds for the state’s public schools, colleges and universities.
Ivey, a Republican and former high school teacher, made the funding request in her State of the State speech to a joint session of the GOP-led Legislature Tuesday, the opening day of this year’s session.
“Whether it is for new construction, safety improvements, or technology upgrades this $1 billion investment is coming at the right time and for the right reasons,” she said. “I urge the members of the Legislature to help us make this investment a top priority for Alabama’s future. Our children are counting on us.”
Ivey said it’s been nearly 14 years since the state made a significant investment in educational capital improvements. She also proposed that pre-K through community college educators receive a 3% raise.
“Our teachers are vitally important to our student’s future,” she said. “I am living proof of this.”
Alabama’s educational facilities bonds are issued by the Public Schools and College Authority. The authority has about $1.5 billion in outstanding capital improvement pool and qualified school bonds, according to Fitch Ratings.
The bonds are rated AA-plus by Fitch, Aa1 by Moody's Investors Service and AA by S&P Global Ratings. All have stable outlooks.
In her speech, Ivey again said Alabama must deal with its aged and overcrowded prison system. Although she didn’t mention a financing mechanism, she said she has asked Department of Corrections Commissioner Jefferson Dunn to spearhead efforts to build three new prisons.
“Alabama has no choice but to reinvent our corrections system by replacing outdated and unsafe facilities that pose a great risk to public safety and inhibit development of programs for inmate rehabilitation,” she said, adding that it is one of the problems the state has ignored for too long.
On another issue that has surfaced in the state for more than two decades, Ivey said she will sign an executive order to establish a working group to gather facts on how much money could be raised if the state instituted some form of gambling, such a lottery.
“Like you, I’m fully aware that the four states which border us all have some form of gaming,” she told lawmakers. “And neither you nor I are naïve enough to believe that we’re benefitting in any way when our people cross the state line to bet on a game of chance.
“While I, personally, have never believed we should fund essential state services on such an unstable source of funding, I have always maintained that the people of Alabama should have the final say on whether or not we are going down this path,” she added.
In response to Ivey’s speech, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan spoke positively about efforts to finance capital needs for schools and universities.
“Gov. Ivey will continue to move our great state forward in the New Year, creating a brighter tomorrow for Alabamians and their children,” said Lathan, who is also a former public school teacher. “Not only did she pledge to build on her past successes with pay raises for our educators and public employees but is also introducing new initiatives including the $1 billion…major investment in our schools.
“This is in addition to our education budget, the largest in state history, and will help enhance and expand our number one rated pre-K program, among others,” she added.
Alabama’s legislative session runs through May 19.