Last year, the Alabama Legislature approved a $1.3 billion plan to build two men's mega-prisons using a $785 million bond issue, $135 million from the General Fund and $400 million from federal money allocated by Congress from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for COVID-19 relief.
However, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) said he saw that use of the ARPA money as inappropriate.
During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show" on Wednesday, Rogers criticized the Alabama Legislature for using ARPA money as a "cookie jar" and advocated the bulk of it be used for rural broadband internet infrastructure.
"You just touched a sore point with me when you talked about that money the state of Alabama has to spend," Rogers said. "I'm so aggravated with them, I can't see straight. We gave the state the money to deal with COVID and the problems that came out of COVID. One of the problems we have in Alabama is we're a rural state, and we don't have enough broadband for the people who have to work from home, go to school at home, and they're building prisons with that money.
"It aggravates me so much. Every dime of that money the state has got should be going toward putting broadband throughout the state. And the fact that they're even discussing what to do with it rather than spending on rural broadband makes me just want to chew nails. I'm just incensed by it. It's not just Alabama. All states are doing it. They're using it as kind of a cookie jar to get their wish list fulfilled. But they ought to be spending it on things to help us deal with the next pandemic, assuming we have another one."
Rogers said diverting the ARPA to prisons directly affects his constituents.
"But the fact is in Alabama, we don't have enough broadband," Rogers said. "I've got a poor rural district, and if they don't spend every penny of that money to get broadband to those poor rural areas, I'm going to be aggravated with them."
When asked about how Georgia was using the ARPA money, which was for a gas tax holiday, Rogers seemed to reject that idea as well.
"You're just trying to get my blood pressure up is all that you're doing right now," Rogers said.
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