By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, the Republican controlled Alabama House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed state Representative Jay Love’s legislation mandating that the state eventually pay back the $437 million Alabama Trust Fund diversion that was approved by voters in September.
Representative Love said on Facebook, “Today the Alabama House passed the bill to require the Legislature to pay back the Alabama Trust Fund. It was the first bill in our Legislative Agenda “We Dare to Defend Our Rights” and we hope to have our full agenda passed out of the House within the first ten days.”
In the 2012 Legislative Session the state legislature approved the $437 million trust fund raid rather than raising revenues, cutting an additional $146 million a year from the general fund, or moving the funds from the better funded education budget. The measure still had to be approved by Alabama voters in a September Special Election. Faced with a great deal of skepticism from the electorate Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) and Rep. Love promised voters that the state would eventually pay the money back. Following the assurances by the Governor and the leadership in the legislature the voters approved the measure 65 to 35%.
The Alabama House Republican Caucus accepted Rep. Love’s recommendation and included his legislation, The People’s Trust Act (House Bill 94), in the ambitious “We Dare Defend Our Rights” House Republican Agenda for the 2013 Legislative Session which began on Tuesday.
Rep. Love said, “When a family dips into their savings account due to an emergency, it’s wise and responsible for them to rebuild those savings just as soon as time allows, and that applies in this case, as well. Just as important, as a businessman, I understand that your word is your bond, and Republicans promised the taxpayers we would reimburse the Alabama Trust Fund for every cent that was borrowed.”
The Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn said, “It’s important that Republicans follow through on the public promise we made to repay the Trust Fund, unlike decades past when the Democrats made promises to taxpayers and then quickly swept them under the carpet once the election was over. Jay Love’s exceptional work as a budget committee chairman and the respect he commands from his colleagues on both sides of the aisle make him the ideal sponsor for such important legislation.”
The legislation sets specific annual benchmark targets that must be met. The Legislature is supposed to repay the first $5 million by the end of fiscal year 2014. By the end of Fiscal Year 2019, the Legislature is required to have repaid at least $105 million. The whole $437 million is supposed to be paid off by the end of fiscal year 2026. Starting in 2015, the Legislative Fiscal Office is required to prepare annual report on the progress being made and whether the benchmarks are being met or not.
As promised by the House GOP Caucus, The People’s Trust Act was the first bill to come to the floor of the House of Representatives and passed with bipartisan support 80-19. The measure will now go on to the Alabama Senate.