Ivey criticizes lawmakers for taking control of relief cash

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(Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager)

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday criticized legislators for taking control of the state’s coronavirus relief money and threatened to delay a needed special session until they disclose their plans “down to the penny.”

Ivey issued a tersely worded statement about the relief money that has become a rare subject on contention between the Republican governor and Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature. The governor issued the statement before lawmakers voted on budget bills. Lawmakers have indicated they want a say in how the state’s roughly $1.7 billion from the coronavirus rescue package is spent.

“I have never desired to control a single penny of this money and if the Legislature feels so strongly that they should have that authority, I yield to them both the money and the responsibility to make good decisions – in the light of day where the people of Alabama know what is happening,” Ivey said.

There is little the governor can do to block the legislature from taking budgeting control. But, exercising the leverage she does have, Ivey issued a public challenge to lawmakers to spend it wisely and said she will hold off on a needed special session until they disclose those spending plans.

Ivey said the money belongs to the people of Alabama.

“It comes to us in an emergency appropriation from President Trump and Congress to support the ongoing crisis that has killed 349 Alabamians, as of this moment, and wreaked havoc on our state’s economy, ruining small businesses and costing more than 430,000 Alabamians a job they had just a few weeks ago,” Ivey said.

Ivey told the House budget chairman she will not call lawmakers back into special session until there is a public list of “how the money will be spent in exact amounts, down to the penny.” The governor suggested in her public statement that lawmakers were considering unrelated expenses. She said she had seen “one ‘wish list’ that includes a new $200 million statehouse for the Legislature.”

The governor said cities, counties and public-school systems had hoped the money would be available in a timely fashion.

“Regretfully, because of the Legislature’s decision – at this last moment – these groups will now have to appeal to the 140 members for help,” Ivey said.

Rep. Steve Clouse, the chairman of the House budget committee, did not immediately return a text message seeking comment.

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