Governor Kay Ivey signed two bills to appropriate roughly $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and transfer $60 million from the state's General Fund to the Alabama Trust Fund.
Ivey said in a statement she "commended the Alabama Legislature for, once again, answering the call to invest these one-time funds wisely to make improvements in Alabamians' quality of life, including water, sewer and broadband expansion projects, as well as health care."
"Alabama can now look to a future of greater promise thanks to the steps we have taken this week to invest these funds wisely," Ivey said.
According to the law, $660 million of the $1 billion-plus total would go to water, sewer and broadband spending. The legislation would send $100 million each to hospitals and nursing homes. $55 million was earmarked for "programs or services in response to the negative economic impacts of the public health emergency," such as food banks, domestic violence victim assistance, and summer education. Finally, $40 million each would go to reimbursements to the Public Education Employees' Health Insurance Board and the State Employees' Health Insurance Board.
The bill had a reasonably smooth road to becoming law during the special session, with the exception of two minor amendments in the Senate and limited opposition.
State Sens. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville), Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), and April Weaver (R-Brierfield) were the three "no" votes in the Senate on Thursday. In the House, the two dissenters were State Reps. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) and Ben Harrison (R-Elkmont),
Orr said Thursday on the Senate floor that he was voting against the bill because "it does not fully fund the (Public Education Employees' Health Insurance Plan) expense that was directly related to COVID, which was the reason the feds passed the original federal law for the rescue plan in the beginning."
Ivey also signed legislation into law on Thursday that would pay off the state's remaining debt to the Alabama Trust Fund on Friday. The bill had full support in both the House and Senate.
The Alabama Trust Fund uses offshore oil and gas drilling royalties to distribute funding to state government, cities, counties, senior citizens and conservation projects.
Alabama voters approved a constitutional amendment when state government finances were in bad shape in 2012, allowing for a $437 million transfer from the Alabama Trust Fund to the General Fund over three years. The amendment didn't have a payback requirement, but the legislation was later passed, requiring the state to repay the borrowed amount.
Ivey said, "[E]leven years ago during more challenging economic times, the state made a pledge to repay $437 million borrowed from the Alabama Trust Fund in order to bolster the General Fund. Last week, I called upon the Alabama Legislature to finally pay back the remainder of these borrowed funds, noting that, unlike D.C., we pay our debts."
"Today, I am pleased to report that lawmakers have responded to my call by swiftly passing legislation appropriating the final $59,997,772 payment due to the Alabama Trust Fund," she continued. "This is responsible stewardship of the people's money and a fitting start to a historic Session. I am proud to sign this Act restoring the Alabama Trust Fund."
The 2023 regular session is scheduled to resume on Tuesday.
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
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