Will Bentley get a two-year moratorium?

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gov. Robert Bentley has thrown the state legislature into a bit of a tailspin by announcing on Wednesday he plans to seek a two-year delay on the private school tax credits established earlier this session by the Alabama Accountability Act.

Bentley said he will not sign a recently passed bill making revisions to the Accountability Act and plans, instead, to return the bill with an amendment suggesting a two-year moratorium on the tax credits and scholarship program, which is designed to allow families with children zoned for failing school tax breaks to help pay tuition at private schools or better public schools.

The bill was controversial when passed and remains so now. And Bentley’s announcement on Wednesday was no less controversial, drawing skepticism and concern from both Republican supporters and Democratic opponents in the Legislature — all of whom are skiddish about what may happen.

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At the heart of his plan is Bentley’s commitment to repaying the $423 million borrowed from the education rainy day fund. The governor wants the state to repay that money – which by law it must repay by Sept. 30, 2015 – before tax credits kick in. The delay, he believes, would be a more fiscally responsible approach to implementing the Accountability Act.

What will happen next is fodder for politicos and statehouse-watchers, all of whom have opinions on how the politics will play out as talk of a possible override of the governor’s veto grows.

But at stake are some key issues: the state’s fiscal health, the future of our rainy day fund, and the future of the Accountability Act.

It will be interesting to see if Gov. Bentley’s two-year moratorium will pass through the statehouse.