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  • Ivey budget: $400 rebates, 2% pay raises, savings for ‘rainy day’

    The Alabama Legislature returned to regular session Tuesday, greeted by a budget proposal from Gov. Kay Ivey. 

    Consistent with priorities outlined in her State of the State Address, the proposal includes increased funding toward education, repayment of debt obligations ahead of schedule, a 2% pay increase for all state employees, and a confirmed push for $400 tax rebates to qualified individuals. 

    The proposal includes both supplemental spending requests for the remainder of this year, as well as a FY2024 budget, which will likely be taken up by lawmakers in the latter part of the session. 

    “Alabama, especially considering the state of the nation’s economy, is on sound footing,” Ivey said today. “Just as every Alabama family budgets to invest, pay their debts and increase their savings, my budget proposals do just that for our state.” 

    Both the General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets are in surplus. The privileges afforded by a positive financial standpoint for the state came with the responsibility of increase requests from almost all state agencies. Given the current reality of inflation, many agencies requested dramatic increases. 

    The governor, as well as legislative leaders, have credited the resilience of the Alabama economy and state budget position to a reigned-in approach – particularly compared to other states.

    As Ivey put it, “Our budgets are strong, and that is, no doubt, because of the fiscally conservative approach we have taken and continue to take.”

    A major indicator of the positive position comes from the final $16 million repayment to the Alabama Trust Fund, which was finalized last week by SB1. Meaning, the state will no longer have to make annual multimillion-dollar contributions. In addition to measures proposed to pay down $40 million in various debts, it also calls for a $50 million contribution to the General Fund budget reserve, known as the rainy day fund. 

    The full proposal, which will likely undergo changes from the legislature later in the session, requests a 8.4% increase to the state’s General Fund and a 6.5% increase to the ETF.  

    State Finance Director Bill Poole offered new specifics about the $400 tax rebate for qualified individuals – as detailed in the governor’s ETF supplemental proposal.

    He said those who filed a 2021 tax return are qualified to receive the one-time payment. State lawmakers will have to structure the exact funding package but, once approved, it will take 60 to 90 days for the state to send checks.

    The possibility of money going directly back into taxpayers’ pockets can be credited to a $2.8 billion surplus in the ETF.

    Ivey budget: $400 rebates, 2% pay raises, savings for 'rainy day' (yellowhammernews.com)

  • Former President Trump has not been notified of whether Manhattan DA plans to bring charges: sources

    Former President Trump has not been formally notified of whether Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg plans to bring charges against him, sources familiar told Fox News Digital, amid speculation of a possible imminent indictment.

    Sources told Fox News, though, that there remains a real chance Bragg does not choose to indict the former president.

    Multiple sources told Fox News that at least one more witness is expected to appear before the grand jury when it convenes Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. in Manhattan. It is unclear, at this point, who the witness or witnesses are.

    Grand jury deliberations and votes are secret proceedings, and an indictment typically remains under seal until an arraignment.

    If an indictment is brought, Trump’s attorneys would be immediately notified. If indicted and notified, Trump attorneys would be able to begin negotiating the terms of a court appearance with the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

    An indictment, if brought, could come as early as Wednesday, a source told Fox News, adding that the earliest Trump could appear in court if charged would be next week. If indicted, the U.S. Secret Service and the New York Police Department would discuss how the former president would surrender. 

    The possible charges stem from the $130,000 hush-money payment that then-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.

    Federal prosecutors in the U.S. attorneys office for the Southern District of New York opted out of charging Trump related to the Stormy Daniels payment in 2019, even as Cohen implicated him as part of his plea deal. The Federal Election Commission also tossed its investigation into the matter in 2021.

    Cohen has said Trump directed the payments. Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 through his own company and was later reimbursed by Trump's company, which logged the payments as "legal expenses." McDougal received $150,000 through the publisher of the supermarket tabloid the National Enquirer.

    The Trump Organization "grossed up" Cohen’s reimbursement for Daniels' payment for "tax purposes," according to federal prosecutors who filed the 2018 criminal charges against Cohen for the payments. 

    Trump has repeatedly denied wrongdoing with regard to the payments made to Daniels, and has repeatedly said the payments were "not a campaign violation," but rather a "simple private transaction." 

    Robert Costello, a former legal advisor to Cohen, appeared before the grand jury Monday, and testified that Cohen is a "serial liar." 

    Costello testified before the grand jury for more than two hours Monday. Costello said he testified to the grand jury that Trump did not know about the payments made by Cohen to Stormy Daniels. 

    The Manhattan DA’s investigation into Trump began in 2019 by then-District Attorney Cyrus Vance. The probe was focused on possible bank, insurance and tax fraud. The case initially involved financial dealings of Trump’s Manhattan properties, including his flagship Fifth Avenue building, Trump Tower, and the valuation of his 213-acre estate Seven Springs in Westchester.

    The investigation, last year, led to tax fraud charges against The Trump Organization, and its finance chief Allen Weisselberg.

    Former President Trump has not been notified of whether Manhattan DA plans to bring charges: sources | Fox News

  • Aging Mobile fire stations raising concerns with union

    MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) — There are concerns surrounding aging fire stations in the city of Mobile. Half of Mobile's fire stations are more than 50 years old. Eleven of them were built before 1976, when asbestos was banned. However, one of those could soon be getting a facelift.

    On Tuesday, Mobile City Councilmembers held over an agenda item that would pay for a design contract for a new fire station in Toulminville. The contract would likely be approved next week. Holding it over for a week is city council's protocol.

    The fire station would replace the old one on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive which Mobile Fire-Rescue's Station 14. Station 14 was built in 1948 and it's the third oldest station in the city of Mobile.

    "That station has been there for so long and it's a small station and it's time for a new station to service those areas," Mobile City Councilmember William Carroll said.

    A design contract is on the table to build a completely new fire station across the street, tearing the old one down. That contract would cost $143,400.

    "We have had members bring photographs and concerns to us about mold, particularly the Azalea Road station but there's several others including Airport and Engine 20, 23, 21, 19, all those stations have had mold issues," Mobile Firefighters Association IAFF Local 1349 President Bill Erickson said.

    Erickson said the city has been involved with trying to replace some stations, but it's a lengthy process. As we mentioned earlier, 11 of the 18 stations were built before 1976, which is when asbestos was banned. In June of last year, Station 8 was temporarily shutdown after an asbestos test came back positive.

    "I think that's what makes the mold mitigation issues more difficult is that these older buildings have some materials like asbestos that they don't want to release so it's almost easier to replace the station to try to fix some of the issues," Erickson said.

    Erickson pointed out that firefighters spend a third of their lives inside these stations. Carrol knows that many of the stations need improvements.

    "There's an overall CIP plan that was put together over a number of years stating which buildings and facilities needed to be done and corrected," Carroll said. "At one point they were showing about $250 million or $300 million in capital improvements that were needed all over the city. This is just one of those capital improvements that are needed that improve the quality of life and services to the people of the city."

    The anticipated construction start date to replace Station 14 would be June 5, according to the proposed design contract.

    Aging Mobile fire stations raising concerns with union | WPMI (mynbc15.com)

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