Lawmakers set necessary plan to repay funds

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thirteen years.

That’s how long lawmakers in Alabama would have to repay the $437 million borrowed last year from the state’s oil and gas trust fund if new legislation is passed.

Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, introduced a bill this week that would require the Legislature to repay the $145.8 million per year that will be drawn from the Alabama Trust Fund over the next three years. Voters approved a measure allowing lawmakers to tap into the reserves in an effort to balance the state’s budget.

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At the time, lawmakers were quick to point out the measure was simply a band-aid that would bridge the gap but not truly resolve the state’s financial woes. Tapping the state’s reserves was a last-ditch effort, and one that came with much angst and debate.

That’s why Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, told his constituents in Pike County that he would also push for a measure to require the state to repay those borrowed funds. Hence Love’s bill this week, which also has gained the backing of Gov. Robert Bentley, who said. “I am 100 percent committed to paying back the Alabama Trust Fund.”

Repaying those funds – at a minimum by 2026, and sooner if cash is available – must be a priority for our lawmakers and state government. And, lawmakers must make balancing the budget – and resolving the debt issues regardless of the difficult choices ahead – a priority over the next two years.

Voters have given the Legislature a three-year window to do just that.