By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama State Senator Paul Bussman (R) from Cullman announced Thursday that he was urging the voters of Alabama to vote “NO” on the September 18th Constitutional Amendment which would allow Governor Bentley to raid the Alabama Trust Fund of $437 million over the next three years to support the Alabama General Fund.
State Senator Bussman said,“As I watched the Republican National Convention, it was very obvious that many other state legislatures were balancing budgets, dealing with out of control pension costs and shrinking the size of government. At the same time, the Alabama legislature is asking the public to allow us to take more money out of the Trust Fund. That is not the reform the people of Alabama voted for in 2010.”
State House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D) from Gadsden also opposes the September 18th Constitutional Amendment. Rep Ford said in his written statement, “When the legislature voted on the constitutional amendment, I voted as I always do on constitutional amendments: yes, let the voters of Alabama decide the amendment’s fate. But, it is important to know, that my vote in the legislature only means that I support the voters’ right to determine if we are going to change the Alabama constitution. Please know that my vote does not mean that I support the constitutional amendment itself; I do NOT support it and I will be voting NO on September 18.”
Alabama State Senator Paul Sanford (R) from Huntsville wrote, “I believe we have an unprecedented opportunity to reshape the future of Alabama for generations to come. However, only a NO vote on the September 18th constitutional amendment will force the debate on this much-needed change in the way Alabama makes budgets for our future generations.”
State School Board Member Mary Scott Hunter (R) said, “When will we live within our means in Alabama if not now? I recognize that there will be a lessening of services, but we have options that have not been properly explored – Medicaid Reform, Sentencing Reform, Cigarette Tax, Gaming Compacts with our Indian Casinos all come to mind. I respectfully disagree with my colleagues in state government who believe that borrowing from our state’s oil and gas trust fund is the best option.”
Alabama State Representative Joe Hubbard (D) from Montgomery blamed Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R). “We have a governor who does not want to fund Medicaid through fiscally responsible approaches like user fees on cigarettes or co-pays,” Rep. Hubbard told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’. “Yet he wants to block the legislature from making sure the measures to fund Medicaid are fiscally responsible. There is no evidence, rhyme, or reason for this type of thinking.”
Former state Senator and 2010 candidate for Governor Bradley Byrne (R) wrote, “To rob the ATF as a three-year temporary “cure” to Medicaid’s funding problems instead of addressing its long-term structural and management issues is fiscally unsound and — by once more kicking the can down the road instead of facing the problem honestly — misses the opportunity to change Medicaid fundamentally and for the better.”
Conservative writer Vernon Burns (R) from Pell City wrote, “Our governor and our legislature are asking the voters of Alabama to approve the breaking of a pledge made to future generations, by the people of Alabama in 1982, to hold the income we receive from oil and gas royalties in a permeant trust.” “This proposed “Fix”, breaking into the trust, is no solution at best and a joke, some kind of political brinksmanship gone to far, at worst. The taking of the 430 million dollars (about 20%) of the principal from the Alabama Trust Fund with no plans to repay that money tells us that in the end these people want to take it all. Also refusing to address the problems that are forcing this super crisis tells us our leaders do not see a problem. They just need more of our money to fund it.”
The conservative website ‘Alabama Defenders’ wrote, “Taking one-fifth of the principal of the state’s $2.4 billion investment/savings account without paying it back is irresponsible and sets a bad precedent. The first sentence in the CA sets a new formula to distribute ATF funds. This formula could deplete the entire ATF in a decade or two. A permanent fix is needed, not just another bail out for a broken system for another three years.”
Similarly the liberal writer, aka ‘Mooncat’ at the progressive website ‘LeftinAlabama’ wrote, “Make no mistake, the choice on September 18th is a bad one. Either dip into the Trust Fund for a short term band-aid to Alabama’ broken budget with no guarantee the money will ever be paid back, or trust Republicans to go back to the drawing board and actually solve the problem….I say (House Minority Leader) Ford is right, the Governor should call the legislature into special session and challenge them to find the needed revenue and craft a permanent solution to the perennial problem of budget shortfalls.
Sen. Dick Brewbaker (R) from Montgomery said on Facebook, “For those of you who have asked my opinion about the upcoming vote on taking 150 million dollars a year for three years to shore up the general fund budget–I voted against the GF budget on the floor of the senate and will vote ” NO” on the referendum. I believe that the legislature will continue to ” kick the can down the road” on reforming state government as long as it possibly can. If this referendum passes, elected officials will be off the hook until after the next election ( hence the 3 years) and all the political will to force state government to live within it’s means will go right out the window.”
Conservative Talk Radio host Mark Montiel said, “Our team….the Republican legislative leadership and Governor Bentley let us down on this one….we simply want a balanced budget without debt.”
South Alabama businessman and former gubernatorial candidate Tim James (R) from Greenville wrote in the Montgomery Advertiser, “Let’s not point fingers at who pushed this highly questionable legislation. That’s immaterial. The issue before us is simple: Are we going to hand over the Alabama Trust Fund so that it can be drained, or are we going to do the right thing and just say “No” to these amendments?”
Representative Ford said, “Republican leaders like to claim that they are fiscally conservative, but raiding the state’s savings account to the tune of $437 million to bailout the prison system and Medicaid is not fiscally conservative.” “I urge you to vote NO on September 18 and urge the Governor to call a special session to require the legislature to work TOGETHER to find a permanent solution to our state’s funding needs. You elected us to make the hard choices and decisions NOW, not to kick the can down the road three years.”
Sen. Sanford said, “Alabamians are being told the State General Fund budget hinges on the passage of the upcoming September 18th Constitutional Amendment. Doom and gloom are being served up like turkey and dressing around the Thanksgiving dinner table. We have once again been offered a one-time solution to a multi-generational problem – take from future generations in order to pay for our current expenditures. Sounds like Washington, DC to me. “Not on my watch,” says this State Senator.”
Sen. Byrne said, “They are asking the voters to raid the Trust Fund we created 30 years ago. With nothing in the proposed amendment that requires the money to be paid back, this amendment will lower by a significant amount the money the ATF can send to the General Fund and Forever Wild on an annual basis. Thus, it will solve one problem temporarily but create long-term budget problems in the process.”
Sen. Bussman continued, “The way the amendment is worded, it intentionally instills fear in the voter. In other words, if this amendment doesn’t pass then the prison doors will fly open releasing the majority of our prisoners , our children and mothers won’t get life saving healthcare and we will have to kick grandma out of the nursing home. That is absurd. To prey on the public’s fear for their safety and security or their well being in healthcare to pass an amendment is truly inexcusable.”
Opponents of the CA are at a enormous disadvantage in this campaign because of the vast sums of money that the hospitals and nursing homes have thrown into this vote. Alabama Medicaid pays the hospitals and nursing homes several $billion a year for the care of Alabama’s poor and disadvantaged. Medicaid is a big business and a “NO” vote on September would potentially decrease the vast Medicaid revenue stream from the taxpayers to the doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes. Governor Bentley is relying on his allies in the state employees unions and in Alabama’s medical industries to fund the pro-CA vote. The Birmingham News reported that the large corporate proponents of the September CA have raised over $600,000 exclusively to promote a “YES” vote.