Local legislators support Amendment 1

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Local legislators are urging Pike County residents to vote in support of a constitutional amendment that would expand rainy day funds for education and create one for state agencies.

On the ballot Nov. 4, Alabama residents will have to decide whether to support Amendment 1, giving legislatures authority to draw money from the Alabama Trust Fund and expand the education rainy day fund to cope with proration.

In addition, the amendment would create a separate rainy day account for some state government agencies like Medicaid and prisons.

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“In my observation, it’s just a smart thing to do,” said Sen. Wendall Mitchell, D-Luverne.

If passed, Mitchell said the money would be withdrawn immediately to compensate for an education budget expected to have more expenses than it does revenues.

If it doesn’t pass, Mitchell said schools in the state could be in trouble.

“What it amounts to is you’re going to get on to April or May and not have enough money to finish the school year,” Mitchell said.

The Alabama Trust Fund, which is sourced by companies that drill natural gas offshore, collects interest and capital funds each year that serve as a revenue source for the state budget.

While some who oppose the amendment said this would drain the trust fund and reduce revenue, Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, said this is the best option.

“I plan to vote for Amendment 1 because I think it’s something we need in order to protect the education process, and this, in my opinion would do that by increasing the rainy day fund so we can stand off proration as long as we can,” Boothe said. “It may not be the best solution, but it seems like it would be the best now.”

Mitchell said the trust fund was meant to be drawn from in times of need.

“In good times, you don’t have to look beyond your normal budget to pay all your bills, but these are not normal times,” Mitchell said. “This fund was set up to have a reserve, and it’s time we tap that reserve.”

If the amendment is passed, the money borrowed will have to be repaid.

“If we draw more money out in the bad times, it would have to be replaced in the good times,” Boothe said.

Mitchell said this amendment would not give the government unlimited access to the trust fund’s money, but it would only allow for a certain percentage of the $300 billion to be drawn from.

“You can’t just keep drawing down. You have to draw on a certain percentage,” Mitchell said. “If economic times are incredibly severe, it won’t even stop proration.”