State budgets passed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 11, 2002

BNI Newswire

The Legislature may well get both the Education Trust Fund and the General Fund budgets passed before the final day of its regular session, a break in tradition if Gov. Don Siegelman signs them before next Wednesday.

State Sen. Ted Little, D-Auburn, said the ETF budget passed the Senate Tuesday with a bottom line of $4.2 billion. Included in that would be $243.5 million allocated to two-year colleges.

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"At this point, we have four legislative days left, and the (state) House and Senate have passed both the ETF and GF budgets," Little said Wednesday. That is something virtually unheard of in the annals of legislative history, he said.

"Frequently it’s been an eleventh-hour process, but now we have four days left and we just await the governor’s signature," he said.

There has been contention, however, over the fact that the ETF budget may not reserve any breathing room in case predicted tax collections do not make the cut this year.

Little said not to worry; the Legislature has passed the budget without going beyond the 50 percent difference in projected revenue growth by the Legislative Fiscal Office and State Finance Director Henry Mabry.

"We did not appropriate any more than the 3.5 percent projected growth. We do feel we have a safety valve there; nothing’s guaranteed, but numbers are beginning to show the economy is slightly improving in Alabama right now," Little said.

The economy’s show of repairing itself has given legislators hope, and Little said no one would have wanted the ETF budget to pass had they felt it was "fiscally irresponsible."

With a Rainy Day Trust Fund proposal coming up on the general election ballot, however, Alabamians will have the opportunity to vote on whether or not they want that safety net for the ETF, Little said.

The Senate also passed 57 local bills, 27 education budget-appropriated bills and 24 General Fund budget-appropriated bills this week.

One of those was Senate Bill 437, a piece of legislation requested by the Tallapoosa County Commission to allow the it to provide incentives to industries wanting to locate in the county.

"It was desired by the county commission and every city council in the county. It passed both the Senate and the House and now has only to appear on the ballot in Tallapoosa County for constitutional approval," he said.

The bill passed both chambers without a descending vote, and will be available for constitutional amendment vote in the June primary election.

Because a bill proposing such a vote cannot be voted on until 90 days after its legislative passage, it will be ready for vote in June.

With 6,000 predicted satellite jobs available from Hyundai Corporation’s move to Alabama, Little believes Senate Bill 437 could come in handy for the entire county.

Another boon to the area was the appropriation of $25,000 to the Lake Martin Area Economic Alliance, for the second year in a row, to be used "to attract new industry to the state," Little said.