Legislature to see special session soon

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, June 16, 2015

With Monday came the official end to the 196th Alabama Legislative Session and, with no General Fund Budget passed by lawmakers, the day also brought confirmation of a special session in mid-August.

Gov. Robert Bentley has said that he wants a long-term fix to the General Fund Budget problem and won’t take shortcuts for an answer. He proposed a $541 million tax package, which was shot down by lawmakers who failed to reach a consensus on alternate funding options.House Republicans sought to approve a smaller tax package, but it too was pushed off the table after they were told the Senate wouldn’t consider the package.

“We had put out there a compact with the Indians on gambling,” said Rep. Alan Boothe, R-Troy. “We were going to ask the governor to do a compact, and we endorsed a compact for $350 million plus some various taxes, such as the cigarette tax. That was enough money to where we could have a budget that would work, but we fell short. I think we’ll see resurrection of some of it in the special session, but I don’t know what yet.”

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Some senators, such as Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, thinks the issue lies in people’s outlooks toward the budget issues, saying there is no sense of urgency to make the decision because lawmakers have yet to grasp the need for a fixed, balanced budget.


“It’s important that we pass a budget and that we pass a budget that adequately funds the services that the General Fund budget provides for,” said Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba. “That’s the issue we’re in discussion with now with the governor’s office. Those discussions are not over, and neither are we in session. But I assume that when an answer is provided, it’ll be during the special session.”

With no agreement on how to bring new revenues into the state’s budget, many state services are under the knife“We’re going to have to cut services or raise taxes,” Boothe said. “The troopers tell us they’ll have to close all these trooper posts, and the National Guard tells us they would have to close armories. There are a tremendous amount of cuts and layoffs that would happen if it were true what they’re saying. We have to believe that’s the truth because the financial director has told us twice state services are in dire strife. It’s scary to know that we could face a federal audit on the prison system that would require us to turn loose inmates. There could be a shutdown and reduction of state troopers. We’re coming into storm season when we could need emergency responders more than any other time.”

And, Holley agrees that any number of options will be back on the table prior to the special session.


“I’m sure all of those issues, including a compact on gambling and privatizing the liquor stores, will be in discussion again,” Holley said. “When the governor issues a special session call, he sets those parameters and the subject matter we can deal with. We’re actually looking for the governor for issues that we can discuss during the special session.”

Although Bentley said he was annoyed with the lack of a solution, he thinks the preparation for the special session will prompt the legislators to come up with a workable solution.

“It’s going to take a lot of looking at it, working together,” Boothe said. “It’s going to take some people gritting their teeth and voting the way they told people they wouldn’t vote. A lot of people ran on no new taxes, and now they feel they aren’t telling their constituents the whole truth. We’re trying to work through it, but we haven’t gotten there yet.”

Holley said the Senate is preparing for the special session, and he is ready to see an agreement be reached on the state’s General Fund budget.

“I just want us to pass a budget,” Holley said. “I’m anxious to get there and do that, pass an adequate budget.”