FOLEY — On Wed. Nov. 28, the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce hosted its final Leadership Series of the year. The speaker for the program was President Pro Tem of the Alabama Senate Del Marsh, who …
FOLEY — On Wed. Nov. 28, the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce hosted its final Leadership Series of the year. The speaker for the program was President Pro Tem of the Alabama Senate Del Marsh, who discussed with the crowd two issues which he says will be vital in 2019: education and infrastructure.
“On the education side, we put together a team of educators to talk about a comprehensive education plan for the state,” Marsh said. “You have Pre-K, K-12, postsecondary,
higher education, all entities of education, but not intertwined as a seamless plan for the state.” Marsh brought together associated school boards, superintendents, AEA, higher education, and postsecondary officials to do a presentation to those gathered detailing their objectives and goals, to see where they would like to see education go.
With this, Marsh hopes to accomplish a comprehensive plan showing how to best serve the needs of the education community and have a unified entity heading towards those goals.
“I believe last year’s budget was $45 million dollars on the Alabama Reading Initiative, which was put in place over twenty years ago and that says our goal is to make sure that every third grader is reading at grade level by the time they reach the third grade,” said Marsh. “Every year we send coaches to schools to teach teachers how to teach the initiative.”
With the gathered school officials, the question was asked as to why the Reading Initiative isn’t taught as part of higher education curriculum, so that every teacher who graduates will be trained. Marsh said he has been assured the Reading Initiative will be added to the curriculum, which will save the $45 million dollars to be spent elsewhere within education.
“Another question that came up was that higher education was concerned that they don’t have enough Alabama graduates going into the four-year institutions, while at the same time they acknowledge that onethird of the young people coming into college are not college ready,” Marsh said. “They are in the process now to determine how they can take personnel from their schools and work with K-12 to make sure they help these young people get to college material before they graduate high school.”
Marsh hopes to “bring back a higher respect level to educators,” stating he feels
some respect has been lost whereas those who work in education should be rewarded. While starting salary for teachers in our state is one of the highest in the southeast, he wants to have the highest paid educators in the region.
Marsh spoke some of the second topic he feels will be affected during 2019, which is to do with
infrastructure and gas tax increases to fund such projects.
“Alabama has a gas tax that was implemented in 1992, which was 26 years ago,” Marsh said. “It’s a flat number, and that flat number has stayed the same for all these years. A lot of the automobiles you have now get more miles to the gallon than in 1992, so you’re literally
putting more miles on the road and paying the same amount of tax as you did 26 years ago.”
Marsh said the state hasn’t kept up with neighboring states on infrastructure, currently having 400 bridges in the state that are slated for repair or replacement, while many arteries need repaving. Aside from roadway infrastructure, Marsh recognized Internet, or
the moving of information as infrastructure as well. Also, the Port of Mobile was discussed
“It’s been determined if we can deepen the port then we could double the amount of commerce going and coming through that port, and that’s important for the state of Alabama,” said Marsh.
Marsh believes the state will see legislation dealing with gas tax during the upcoming
year in order to remain competitive, and research is already being done to determine how other states are handling this issue. What he envisions is a consumer price index, which will be the basis for how much fuel taxes increase.
“Right now the state gets 65 percent of the taxes and the county gets 35 percent,” Marsh said. “The cities, towns, and counties generally argue about who gets what piece of that 35. The city formula is population, which helps the larger population density areas get a little bit more money than they did in the past.”
A large concern from the crowd was if the taxes increased, where would the money go
and where would it be spent? While parts of the county remain rural and lightly traveled, it was argued that portions of the county have two populations: the residents who live there and then the abundance of tourists who use local infrastructural annually, to which Marsh replied it would be up to the cities and counties to determine what would be done in a situation such as that.
Another question raised by the audience concerned the BP funding for the coastal area, with citizens asking Marsh to make a pledge to support the coastal area to see that we get the funds and infrastructure we need.
“Absolutely,” Marsh said. “In fact, although those in Baldwin County may say, ‘we didn’t get our fair share,’ there was a chance that none of it was going to come back to Baldwin County … We made sure that we put people in a room, we forced this issue, and made sure that decision
was made before that money got spent elsewhere. So I was possibly not as pleased as you want to be, but I was pleased that money did get to the coast as it should have.”
For more information on the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce and their upcoming events, check out their website at www.southbaldwinchamber.com.