By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, April 9, Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) addressed the Alabama Political Reporter as well as the other members of the Montgomery press corps after the House took a lunch break.
Speaker Hubbard said that while it appears that not a lot has happened this week behind the scenes “we got a lot accomplished.” The Speaker said that Wednesday was a very busy day in committees where a lot of bills were moved. Hubbard said that it was good to get started on the budgets so that everybody can see what the budgets might look like.
On Governor Robert Bentley’s $541 million request for more taxes for the General Fund, the Speaker said that we can all agree that we are looking at about a $250 million shortfall in the general fund if everything is level funded from what they were last year, but not every agency will be level funded as shown by the budget that Rep. Clause released yesterday.
Speaker Hubbard said that his side of the aisle viewed taxes as a “last resort.”
On Wednesday, April 8, the House Minority Caucus released their 2015 legislative agenda. When asked about it, Speaker Hubbard said, “I have never seen an agenda released after a session was one third over before.” The Speaker said that those were old ideas that had been around for a while.
The Speaker said, “We will involve the Governor” in the budget negotiations when it is time to do so. “We will not blindside the Governor.”
Speaker Hubbard said that the legislature wanted to pass all their improved efficiency legislation first before even looking at any revenue increases.
When asked if there would not be a budget finished this session, Speaker Hubbard said that there will be a budget passed though he could not guarantee that the Governor would sign it. Speaker Hubbard said that it is normal for the budgets are done near the end of the legislative sessions. The Speaker said that when the Democrats ran the legislature it was often done on the last day.
On the proper split of Education Trust Fund (ETF) money’s the Speaker said that he was supportive in theory of a two thirds pre-K-12 to one-third higher education split. The Speaker who acknowledged that Auburn University is in his district said that as more money comes in to the ETF in coming years we will gradually move that way.
The current split is roughly 74.8 percent pre-K thru12 to 25.2 percent higher education. Hundreds of college students were in the State House and the Capital grounds on Thursday urging lawmakers to appropriate more money towards higher education. Over the last decade of Democrat control of both houses of the legislature the split of ETF dollars gradually tilted in favor of the primary grades (elementary, middle, and high schools). As State appropriations declined the colleges and universities raised tuition. Many students are now graduating from four year state colleges with $58,000 in debt or more.
On efforts to improve the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013, Speaker Hubbard said that he has been working with Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh on that legislation and was supportive of the bill. Hubbard said that he favored increasing the appropriation to the SGOs because the scholarships are so popular. Speaker Hubbard said that there are over 12,000 children on waiting lists for the scholarships.
Rep. Mike Hubbard has been Speaker of the House since the 2010 election which gave the Republican Party a supermajority in both houses of the Alabama legislature for the first time since Reconstruction after the Civil War.