Third Quarter 2016 Newsletter
The books on Fiscal Year 2016 are now closed. It was a year full of budget challenges with a shaky fiscal future ahead. I am hopeful and optimistic that Alabama will put into action true budget reform to sustain the future of our great State.
On August 15, 2016, the Alabama Legislature was called into a Special Session by the Governor to request additional revenues through a statewide lottery. The Special Session was the third Special Session in the last 12 months, along with two Regular Sessions, totaling five Legislative Sessions in the last 20 months.
Over the past year, the Legislature has struggled to identify an additional $85 million to fully fund Medicaid at $785 million. The ever-increasing appropriation for Medicaid will continue to remain a challenge. For more than a decade, funding for Medicaid has grown at a double digit pace while the General Fund overall has increased by a single digit each year.
The most recent Special Session revolved around two main issues: the lottery and BP Settlement monies, as it relates to Medicaid funding. The Legislature was called at this specific time due to a deadline on the November ballot for public to vote on a lottery. The lottery bill started in the Senate with a bill by Senator Jim McClendon. In short, it failed, then passed in the Senate, then failed, and passed in the House before ultimately failing in the Senate.
After the lottery failed, the BP settlement monies were addressed by the Legislature. After days of debate on the different combinations of how the money would be used by the House, Senate and Conference Committee, it was enacted by both houses. The bill provides $400M to debt repayment, $120M for roads in Mobile and Baldwin Counties and $120M to Medicaid for Fiscal Year 2017 and Fiscal Year 2018. Although a solution was accomplished to fully fund Medicaid for the upcoming fiscal year, budgetary challenges remain for future sessions.
On a positive note for the Special Session, a Resolution by Speaker McCutcheon and Pro Tem Marsh was adopted to create a Joint Legislative Task Force on Budget Reform. It is my understanding that the focus will be to determine how best to fund state government with existing revenues. Possible solutions include freeing up earmarked revenues and revaluating existing tax credits and deductions that will provide flexibility within our budgets and allow Legislators to prioritize and fund essential services of state government. I am proud to report that the task force met for the first time on September 28 and will continue each month until they make their report to the Legislature during the next Regular Session in February.
After a long-awaited process, the USS Montgomery was commissioned for service to the United States Navy on September 13 in Mobile at the Alabama State Docks. I was pleased to attend the Commissioning Ceremony with my friend and sponsor of the ship, Mary Blackshear Sessions, wife of U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions.
The Montgomery was named by the Secretary of the U.S. Navy, Ray Mabus, in October 2011 to honor the Alabama’s Capital City. After the ship was officially named, it was launched from the Austal USA shipyard to the water in August 2014. Once placed in the water, the ship is committed to the seas during the Christening Ceremony in November 2014. The Montgomery was delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2016, then commissioned into active service to deter aggression and maintain freedom of the seas. The ship is transformed from raw aluminum, thousands of pipe stools, miles of cable, and thousands of individual components to create a highly complex, state-of-the-art 3,100-ton naval combatant vessel.
The Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) play a significant role in our nation’s defense and its continuation is vital. I am pleased to share that on September 16 Austal USA in Mobile was awarded a $326 million contract by the U.S. Navy for two Expeditionary Fast Transport ships (EFT). The most recent announcement is the U.S. Navy will name the nation’s 26th LCS USS Mobile after the City of Mobile, and Rebecca Byrne, wife of U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne, will serve as the sponsor of the ship. Austal USA is a huge asset to the State of Alabama and will continue to make a significant impact, not only in our State, but our Nation’s defense.
Aerospace States Association Annual Meeting
At the recent Aerospace States Association (ASA) Annual Meeting in July, I had the opportunity to attend the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The EAA Airshow is the largest airshow in the world, attracting more than 500,000 people and 10,000 airplanes. It was refreshing to see the Auburn University Aviation Program represented, as well as a number of Alabama companies.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International’s (AUVSI) and the Aerospace States Association (ASA) recently signed a memorandum of understanding to help transform the national economy with Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). UAS, also known as drones, are a phenomenon that are currently used by individuals, companies, military, law enforcement, farmers, utilities and real estate professionals to name a few. Although they can be disruptive technology, we must continue to promote innovation, development and advancement for utilization. Efforts are currently in place to create a sustainable climate in Alabama for UAS.
The aerospace industry in Alabama is thriving and growing with the 400 aerospace companies from 30 different countries with over 83,000 employed in the industry.
Thank you for the privilege to serve this Great State. I believe in Alabama and her people. I truly believe our finest days are ahead of us.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office if I may be of any assistance to you.
Photos: (Top) Lt. Governor Ivey visits the Auburn Montgomery Leadership Class, September 26, 2016. (Left) Lt. Governor Ivey with the newly-elected Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon, August 17, 2016. (Right) Lt. Governor Ivey receives the Golden Eagle Award from the Enterprise and Coffee County Boy Scouts at their Annual Golden Eagle Dinner in Enterprise, August 11, 2016. (Bottom) Lt. Governor Ivey joined Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan to present the Century and Heritage Farm to Albert Nettles and family of Monroe County for maintaining their family farm for 200 years at the Alabama Forestry Association Annual Meeting, September 13, 2016.