Governor Robert Bentley talks strengths, weaknesses, and his solutions in State of the State address

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT)--  Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley began his address remembering Alabama's contribution in the lunar landing, citing the people of the state's drive to accomplish the impossible and improbable.

He later delved into where Alabama hurts most.

"We can not continue to ignore persistent problems," he explained. "Too many Alabamians are undereducated, undertrained, unhealthy, and unable to break the cycle of poverty."

His message was stern, urgent, and in many ways a call to action.

Gov. Bentley asks that legislators get behind his plans for change, which he calls the Great State 2019 plan.

A big part of it is transforming the state's aging prison system, plagued by overcrowding that creates a dangerous and expensive situation. Plans include demolishing some of the older, outdated buildings and instead constructing four new, state of the art prisons that will be bigger and more efficient. He said a bond issue would fund it, and savings would pay for the construction debt.

"We'll produce immediate savings for the state with less operational costs and higher efficiencies in staffing and maintenance," he explained.

The governor also laid out a broad agenda that includes boosting prekindergarten access.

"By 2019, we will be able to tell every parent in Alabama, there is a pre-K classroom available for your child," he commented.

Also in the plan, a proposal to expand high-speed internet access in rural areas and assistance for students who want to attend two-year colleges.

The governor highlighted a shortage of doctors in most Alabama counties, as well as the need for more rural health care.

Alongside the bad, though, he threw in the good. His balanced budget plan includes a 2% pay raise for teachers, support staff and all state employees, "no strings attached," he explained. He also talked about positive strides to increase graduation rates during his time in office:

In addition, he mentioned that more than 52,000 jobs has been added in Alabama since last year. He cited Polaris, Google and GE Aviation choosing the Tennessee Valley as their home, drawing more industry to Alabama and helping to decrease the state unemployment rate.

The Governor also talked at length about supporting the constitutional right to bear arms and condemned the nation's welcoming of Syrian refugees. He wants the Legislature to introduce a joint resolution to push for change to the federal Refugee Resettlement Act.

The Governor's Office has provided a link for more information about the Governor's address, and his Great State 2019 plan.

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