Senate Confirmations was the focus for several hours this morning. We filled several key positions on boards and commissions to include the newly formed Athens State University Board of Trustees, enabled by legislation that Rep Dan Williams and I championed last year. This legislation allowed the long standing university to come out from under the two-year college system this year and now functions as a standalone board. I’m excited for what the university – my alma mater as a 2006 graduate – can accomplish!
We passed a bill – hotly debated today – to payback the $437M borrowed from the Alabama Trust Fund ($147M a year at 3 years) through the September 18th Referendum. The bill establishes an automatic, structured repayment through an annual appropriation over a 10 year period. As written, the bill does not require any further action by future legislatures to ensure repayment. Additionally, key to the way the bill is written, is that it doesn’t give future lawmakers the option on repayment; it sets up an automatic appropriation and guarantees it. This bill will act to control spending in the General Fund because the Legislature will know it won’t have these funds to spend away. Most important, the money goes back to the people’s trust fund for our state and children’s future – where it belongs.
Not surprisingly, the Democrats postured that we shouldn’t have to pay the borrowed funds back as the funds already belong to the taxpayers. My position is that we should work to not borrow the money – make the cuts now – and we should pay back anything borrowed in a structured settlement over a defined time frame.
As I reported in an earlier blog post last week - It is important to remember what I call - “We’ve Inherited the Sins of our Fathers” – in that we have substantial debts remaining to be repaid on top of what we may borrow from the Trust Fund through the September 18th Referendum. The legislature borrowed $161M for the General Fund in 2010 that must be paid back by 2020 and $437M from the Education Trust Fund in 2009 that must be paid back by 2015. Note, both of these borrowing arrangements were made under a Democrat controlled legislature with no defined repayment schedule. How well has that worked out? Well, we still owe over $420M of the $437M borrowed five years ago and $161M of the $161M borrowed two years ago....yea, I don’t recommend loaning money to the state!
Discussions concerning legislation to guarantee pay back of funds borrowed began early last fall with fellow Senators Taylor, Allen, Bussman and Sanford. I appreciate their hard work and seeing this bill through. This should be the first Bill of the 2013 session heading to Gov for signature.
In other activity today, HB84, the House version of SB54, the Local Control School Flexibility Act, passed the full House today in a 65 – 37 vote along party lines. It will start its journey in the Senate next week.
I plan to attend the Madison Co Republican Men’s Breakfast Saturday morning and the Congressman Brooks Town Hall meeting at Madison City Hall, 7 PM Monday night.
Have a great weekend! Semper Fi - Bill