Boothe gives back money

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 10, 2001

Staff Writer

On Wednesday, State Rep. Alan Boothe returned some of his pay to the state treasurer.

The Democratic representative from Troy handed over a check for $150 ­ the amount he earned during the 12-day Special Session held in February to deal with the issue of proration.

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"I feel like it should be returned to the state of Alabama," Boothe said to Baxley. "It’s money I don’t feel like I earned because nothing was accomplished during the special session."

On Feb. 2, Gov. Don Siegelman declared a 6.2 percent proration of the Education Trust Fund. That hit to education funding was expected to force school systems to lay off teachers, but the governor was trying to prevent that from happening so he called a special session on Feb. 22, the same day Montgomery Circuit Judge Tracey McCooey ruled it was unconstitutional to reduce funding for K-12, school buses and special schools for students with disabilities. The Alabama Supreme Court issued a stay on McCooey’s ruling, which gave legislators until Feb. 27 to find a way to prevent proration.

Since the special session was called during the Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature, Boothe and other representatives did not earn additional money during those 12 days.

The special legislative session called by Gov. Don Siegelman ended on March 5 with the only real accomplishment ­ setting a new record for inactivity on the floors of the House and Senate. Prior to that special session, it had been at least 50 years since a legislative session ended without any bills being passed.

Boothe said the session was "so frustrating it was unbelievable."

Lack of action, he said, was because there was "no plan anyone could grab a hold of. I didn’t think the plan was there."

Since the session did not answer the question ­ What do we do about proration?" Boothe chose to return his share of the money made during that time.

Baxley commended Boothe’s actions.

"This is a very honorable thing for you to do," Baxley said.

She said Boothe’s return of the $150 shows he understands the state’s financial distress.

"It shows you understand our predicament," Baxley said.

Just prior to the special session being called, Boothe introduced House Bill 383, which would mean less money for legislators in the event proration is ever declared again.

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.

But, with the final day of the regular session being May 21, Boothe’s bill will not likely pass.

If the legislation does indeed pass, it would require the expense allowance for the governor’s mansion, expense allowance for legislators and salaries of the governor’s Cabinet members be reduced by the same percentage of proration declared for the Education Trust Fund or the General Fund, or both.

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

According to estimated figures Boothe was given, $2.3 million would be saved if the 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.