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Voters to Decide on Armory Upgrades on Tuesday

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Tuesday, November 4 Alabama voters go to the polls to vote on Amendment 2.  Alabama’s National Guard Armories are aging and need repairs.  The federal government will pay fifty percent or more of the cost of the work; but the state needs to come up with our portion of the funds in order to receive the matching dollars from the U.S. Department of Defense.  The legislators have proposed doing this through a $50 million bond issue.

Amendment #2:

“Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, relating to the Capital Improvement Trust Fund, to increase the amount of the General Obligation Bonds authorized herein; to provide for additional payments from the Alabama Trust Fund to fund any bond issued; to provide for competitive bidding of the bonds; and to provide for the distribution of the proceeds for plans, construction, and maintenance of Alabama National Guard armories.”

If APPROVED…The State may borrow up to an additional $50 million in bonds to be repaid within 20 years in order to fund plans, construction and maintenance of Alabama National Guard armories.

If it FAILS…There is not enough money in the state budgets to adequately fund the upgrades and routine maintenance items needed to keep our aging National Guard armories in good workable conditions, or to build new or refurbish existing armories. If this amendment fails our armories will continue to deteriorate.”

According to the Alabama Policy Institute (API): “Proponents of the amendment have pointed to the need to rebuild or repair a number of outdated armories located throughout the state. While opponents acknowledge the need for improvements at some Alabama armories, there is great consternation with increasing the state’s debt through this bond issue.”

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Becky Gerritson with the Wetumpka Tea Party said “I am not going to recommend a yes or a no vote.”

Senator Gerald Dial (R from Lineville), is a strong supporter of the amendment.  Sen. Dial told the Alabama Policy Institute that Amendment two would allow the state to take advantage of  federal matching funds that have been left on the table in the past.  Sen. Dial warned that the poor condition of some state armories could lead to having them closed.

A Yes vote on amendment would allow the state to increase its bond debt by $50 million to pay for the repairs and maintenance of state National Guard armories. The debt service on this new bond would be paid by the Alabama Trust Fund and would decrease revenue from the trust fund.

The amendment requires that the bonds would be paid over a 20-year period. The Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO) estimates that the assets of the ATF would be reduced by $3.7 million each year for 20 years to pay the debt service on the additional bonds.

Becky Gerritson said, “Some of our National Guard Armories in Alabama are in need of repair, in need of desperate repair in some cases.  Amendment 2 proposes an amendment to the state Constitution to allow the state to borrow up to $50 million from the Alabama trust fund to provide for plans, maintenance and construction of our National Guard armories.  The Cost to the state may be matched by the Department of Defense so we will put in a certain amount of money and the department of Defense will match it or even exceed the amount we put in.”

While Gerritson says that she is pro-military and admits that funding our military is a Legitimate function of government she says there is a drawback in that: “Amemdment 2 would allow the state to raid the trust fund with no provision or promise to pay it back just so we can do maintenance on our Alabmaa national guard armories.  When the trust fund was set up it was understood that the Trust Fund would only be dipped into in extreme cases and only if there is a provision for pay back.  I am not sure that maintenance on our armories constitutes an extreme emergency.”

Gerritson said that, “The trust fund is a crucial source of revenue for Alabama.  Passing Amendment 2 will reduce Alabama’s revenue for decades to come not only will we see a Permanent reduction in the monies held in the trust fund but we will see an annual Reduction on the interest payment paid to the State and local governments. You have to decide if fixing up our armories is a priority and if it is worth raiding our Alabama Trust fund.”

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With another round of base closings and realignment on the horizon lawmakers fear that without this money to upgrade, repair and modernize the armories more Alabama Guard units will be downsized in coming budget years.

The voters decide on Tuesday, November 4.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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