Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey touted the Rebuild Alabama Act, with its gasoline tax increases to fund infrastructure, as one of her major accomplishments that will address a longtime need in the state.
Ivey delivered her “State of the State” address to members of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, emphasizing the Rebuild Alabama funding passed in a special session of the Legislature last month.
“Since I took office two years ago tonight, we have seen 25,000 new jobs created here in Alabama,” Ivey said. “We have seen several coveted economic development projects announced. And we have seen strides taken to improve education. More recently, we saw the strength of teamwork in the effort to pass my Rebuild Alabama Act. It absolutely took a strong team effort to get that key piece of legislation passed.”
The new law raises Alabama’s gasoline tax by 10 cents per gallon over the next three years to fund improvements to roads, bridges and the Port of Mobile, along with other transportation infrastructure improvements.
“To expect a prosperous future for the great state of Alabama, it was just time for us to address once and for all the lingering issue of our crumbling infrastructure,” Ivey said.
After delivering her address, Ivey told reporters the state is playing catch-up with others in addressing these problems.
“Alabama is way behind our sister states in doing this,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of catching up to do. I’m just proud that the people of Alabama supported this and we’re moving forward to rebuild Alabama.”
The governor said when business prospects are looking to locate in a state or area, infrastructure needs are essential.
Anna Buckalew, president and CEO of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, agreed and praised the governor for pushing for the gasoline tax increase.
“We took a little time and celebrated the passing of the gas tax,” Buckalew said. “That took tremendous leadership on her part. She led the way. We had great support with the Legislature and other leaders, but it took the governor to get that done. We’re so grateful. The gas tax gives us infrastructure that was critically needed. You can’t do economic development without good infrastructure.”
Ivey said “the state’s economy is booming” and economic development will continue to be a key issue. She also acknowledged the need to address other problems.
“So, as we move forward we will face our challenges, like improving infrastructure, like addressing the understaffing in our prisons, like improving the education system,” she said. “And we will continue to build on our strengths. And when we do all of this, working together, we will have a future that is filled with growth and opportunity. Remember that Alabama’s best days are still ahead of us.”
Buckalew said that’s music to the ears of organizations like the Montgomery chamber.
“The governor is a strong advocate of economic development,” she said. “We heard that this morning. The chamber is all about job creation and she was singing our song this morning. She talked about the thousands of jobs that have been created in the state. She is a pro-business governor.”
Ivey said workforce development and its ties to education at every level will be a priority.
“Looking forward, we’ve got to start preparing our people for jobs of the future,” Ivey said. “So, we’re trying to build that pipeline starting with pre-K and all the way through the workforce, two-year colleges and beyond. It’s important to keep the pipeline current and relative to the needs of industry.”
Buckalew said a quality workforce tops the list of needs for companies looking to locate or expand in the state.
“The governor has a tremendous agenda on workforce development (starting with) pre-K,” Buckalew said. “She understands the realities of what we need to have a trained workforce in this state. A trained workforce means that those people have opportunities, that our kids can have opportunities and jobs.”