Federal coronavirus relief funds create Alabama leadership dispute

Published 8:04 pm Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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By PAUL DeMARCO | Guest Columnist

Note: This is an opinion column.

During Gov. Kay Ivey’s two terms as state treasurer and six years as lieutenant governor, she developed a close relationship with state legislators.

After being sworn in as chief executive after the resignation of Robert Bentley, Ivey’s partnership with the legislature grew even stronger.

In her first full year in office, she was able to even muscle through an unpopular gasoline tax with large majorities in the legislature.

Thus, the dispute that has developed over how to spend the almost $2 billion in federal coronavirus relief has been a surprise to those that watch what happens on goat hill.

In the midst of the legislature passing its general fund budget, during an abbreviated session lawmakers wanted to have a say on how those funds appropriated by Congress and President Donald Trump would be spent and sent a wish list to the governor that did not sit well.

Gov. Ivey shot back at Senators and Representatives that she would have none of that, including criticism that the list included items not related to the pandemic. Instead, she put the responsibility of spending the funds on legislators.

And she spelled out an anticipated special session would not be called until all of the dollars were accounted for in a transparent manner related to the needs of citizens due to the pandemic.

Yet, the rift between the executive and legislative branch did not happen overnight, the governor and some legislators have had strong disagreements about how the state has also responded to the pandemic with the closing and opening of state businesses.

Before the virus, there were also disputes about how to address state prison overcrowding and funding for infrastructure projects.

The Legislature ultimately yielded to the governor’s plans for how to spend the federal dollars, yet some tensions still remain between both.

The governor and state lawmakers, have a lot more work to do to move this state through this health and economic crisis.

We will see how this all plays out soon, however, citizens want the politics put aside and leaders to do what is best for the state.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House or Representatives.