- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - This is the prepared text for Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley’s address to a joint session of the Legislature Tuesday evening, as released by the governor’s office:

Lt. Governor Ivey, Speaker Hubbard, President Marsh, distinguished guests, members of the Alabama Legislature, Chief Justice Moore, justices of the Alabama Supreme Court - and my fellow Alabamians.

The poorest county in the United States of America is located just 73 miles from where we sit tonight. If we were to drive a little over an hour from this historic hall we would find ourselves in Wilcox County where the median household income is below that of any other county in this nation.(asterisk) 11-thousand of our fellow Alabamians live in Wilcox County where the unemployment rate is chronically in double digits and consistently ranks above the national average.

Everyone in this room knows Alabama is one of the poorest states in America(asterisk), where one in four children live in poverty.(asterisk) Nearly 1-million of our fellow Alabamians are dependent on Food Stamps.

The statistics are sobering. The facts are indisputable. Never ending cycles of a need for jobs, better job skills and better education, plague our communities, counties and state as they have for years.

We recognize the challenges that we face and we resolve to reverse the trends that have troubled our state for decades.

Alabama is truly a great state. It’s a state filled with hard working people, people who want to provide well for their families, seek to live freely and are driven to care for their neighbors, friends and communities.

Good people live here.

And we must all serve them and offer them greater opportunity to prosper if we are to ever see our state rise from the depths of deficiency.

We will never see an end to the plague of poverty by offering a deeper dependence on a flawed government system. We will never help our poorest citizens, or our future generations by casting over them the net of federal government giveaway programs.

We can break the cycle of poverty, but not with programs that drag our communities and our people into the downward spiral of dependence.

That is why we will not expand on a flawed and broken system that encourages greater reliance, not on self, but on government, pulling even more of our vulnerable citizens into what President Ronald Reagan called the “spider’s web of dependency.”

We will help no one if we continually make decisions that ultimately offer little hope for our citizens while driving this great nation deeper into debt.

There is never freedom for the Breadwinner who is dependent on the government.

Freedom is only found in the Land that offers Opportunity. That comes from hard work and sacrifice.

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