Boothe willing to take cut with schools

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 26, 2001

Staff Writer

Alabama’s governor is asking legislators to give up some of their money, just two months after he voiced opposition to legislation that would do just that.

In February, State Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, introduced a bill that would mean less money for them in the event proration is ever declared.

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When House Bill 383 was filed, it has a list of 28 names attached, including those of Boothe and co-sponsor Lesley Vance of Phenix City.

Under current law, the governor can prorate money to any department, office, agency, board, bureau, commission or institution in order to prevent overdraft or deficit in any fiscal year.

On Feb. 2, Gov. Don Siegelman executed such power when he declared a proration of 6.2 percent for the Education Trust Fund.

But, Boothe believes legislators need to stand up against the governor.

Although he realizes "there’s nothing we can do" about the downturn of the economy, Boothe believes there is plenty legislators can do to protect programs in the future.

"The train’s out of the station as far as proration is concerned," Boothe said of what can be done now.

He said it is "a shame the first thing we do is cut the children" as soon as the state gets into financial distress.

"I think it’s wrong to penalize one segment of society more than another," Boothe said. "We need to prorate ourselves before we prorate education."

Instead of taking money from the schools, Boothe believes legislators and others in government should give up some of what they get.

"If we expect them to take the bite, we ought to take the bite with them," Boothe said. "We’re all in this together."

That belief resulted in Boothe having legislation drawn and filed. If passed, the expense allowances for the governor’s mansion, legislators and salaries of the governor’s Cabinet members would be reduced by the same percentage of proration declared for the Education Trust Fund or the General Fund, or both.

"If we expect school children to suffer, legislators should be prorated, too," Boothe said.

The Alabama Constitution of 1901 states salaries of constitutional officers can not be prorated, but other accounts can be.

Boothe said he introduced the bill as "a wakeup call" to those in state government.

But, not everybody in state government agrees with Boothe, who said representatives of the governor offered their opinions on the bill.

More than two months later, the governor has asked legislators to give up their special project grants, which would amount to about $12 million.

Siegelman has indicated he will give up special project money he gets from the state’s Public School and College Authority if legislators give up their money. The governor has proposed the Public School and College Authority receive $6.5 million from the education budget, next year.

That recent announcement by the governor made Boothe a little hot around the collar.

"I wish he’d come out in favor of my bill," Boothe said regarding the "ironic" announcement made by the governor earlier this week.

A representative of the governor’s office said Siegelman would support Boothe’s bill.

Despite the support of those "willing to take our hit" along with the schools, Boothe has been unable to get his bill out of House committee.

According to estimated figures Boothe was given, $2.3 million would be saved if the proposed legislation was currently in effect.

That money, he said, could go to departments such as the Department of Human Resources, which draws money from the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund, leaving that money in the Education trust fund for other needs.

The act will become effective immediately upon becoming law.