Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) voiced his frustration with the Alabama Legislature's use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds allocated to the state in the name of COVID-19 pandemic relief.
He told Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5 that he saw the money as better suited for rural broadband than the $400 million of ARPA money appropriated for new prison construction by an act of the legislature during a special session in 2021.
Rogers, formerly the minority leader in the Alabama House of Representatives, said the legislature's judgment made him "want to chew nails."
"It aggravates me so much," Rogers said. "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."
State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) responded to Rogers' remarks during his regular appearance on FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show."
Elliott insisted the legislature was using the funds within the intended purposes of the ARPA.
"It surprised me a little bit," Elliott said. "He seemed very, very frustrated, and I think it's reasonable just to remind the congressman that the ARPA funding that he is talking about was to replace lost revenue, as calculated by the act, and that's exactly what we did. That lost revenue was essentially what would have otherwise been in the general fund and can be used at the legislature's discretion for whatever it sees fit. Of course, all of your listeners are very familiar with the prison crisis that we have in Alabama. We have been talking about it for a very, very long time. The legislature was able to lead on this issue and use some of this federal money to address the concerns in Alabama's prisons and to finally move that conversation forward.
"Now to Congressman Rogers' point about broadband infrastructure, the state is also spending a tremendous amount on not just the funding on broadband infrastructure but also hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of ARPA funding on broadband infrastructure. We're doing both, but I'm not sure we need to get into a discussion about state political priorities with a U.S. congressman or budget priorities with a U.S. congressman."
Later in the segment, Elliott revealed he had sent Rogers a box of nails, all in good fun, of course.
"I will let you know if the box of nails I sent Congressman Rogers got through security," Elliott added.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com.
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