Connect with us

News

Committee Rejects Plan to Raid Rolling Reserve

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Wednesday, May 13, the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee voted against a controversial plan to raid the rolling reserve fund to prop up the State’s troubled General Fund Budget.

Alabama inexplicably has two budgets with different revenues earmarked for each. The Education Trust Fund (ETF) supports Alabama’s Colleges, Universities, pre-K thru 12th grade education, and two year college system. The General Fund supports Alabama’s: courts, roads, prisons, Medicaid, Commerce, Law Enforcement etc. Because Education Revenues like the income tax go up and down with the economy a portion of education dollars goes to fund the rolling reserve which is a reserve fund the state maintains for economic downturns like the Great Recession of 2008 to 2009.

Senator Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville) sponsored SB12.

Sen. Sanford told the Committee:
“What I wanted to try to do is to try to share the growth with the general fund. I realized there are some constraints with the State Constitution particularly with income taxes. 78 percent of State revenues goes to the ETF and 22 percent go to the General Fund. $6.2 billion and $1.5 billion a year respectively. I have been working on this for three years. The goal was not to reduce money in the education fund but rather to share the growth with the General Fund.”

SB12 diverts some money from the stabilization fund to the General Fund.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) said, “I understand what you are trying to do. We do not fund education where it needs to be…I am not for supporting a bill that will fund the general fund on the backs of the boys and the girls of this State.”

Sen. Roger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) said, “I fully concur with the gentleman (Dial).  We have been having a problem in the general fund and we all know that.  Once things start I am ready to dig in to this one principle I want every dime of general fund spending out of education. We ain’t where we are supposed to be in education. Books are supposed to be $60 million so every child can have books and bring them home.  We have to raise enough money for the General Fund to get all the education money out of there.”

Sen. Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) asked Sanford, “What were you thinking when you decided to introduce this bill?”

Sen. Sanford said, “There is a crisis in the State of money for the General Fund. We took money out of the Trust Fund to get us past this last election. I did not support that then. This year there will be excess of $200 to $225 million diverted into the stabilization fund. The Governor is not running around the State saying that we need more taxes.  I think it is time to stabilize some things. I am trying to get some of the growth revenue into the General Fund.  Allow that to fund the general fund until we can find another solution.  We are going to cut your mental health when there is $200 million sitting in a kitty fund?

Public Service Announcement

Sen. Figures said we would not be in this situation if the Governor had signed the paper to expand Medicaid.

Sen. Sanford said that other states who did expand Medicaid have had to spend $10, 20, 30, 40 million more than they anticipated.

Sen. Hank Sanders (D-Selma) asked, “Do you agree that education is not fully funded?”

Sanford said, “I am not sure what you mean by that?”

Sen. Sanders said, “Books, transportation. Sometimes you have to rob Peter to pay Paul but you are robbing Peter’s children to pay Paul.”

Sen. Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery) said, “I appreciate you bringing this piece of legislation but disagree. We should look at repealing the rolling reserve where we have this pool of money that we can’t get to but should use it to enhance education: not take from it.  We are in a pickle right now but I can’t support this.”

Sen. Sanford said, “I know the State is in financial distress right now but we aren’t broke when there is several hundred million sitting there in an account. Raising taxes is not the only way.  SB12 can’t solve all the problems in the General Fund but I got about $150 million. Mental health patients are not getting the care that they deserve and we have several hundred million in a pot you can’t touch.”

Chairman Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) said, “This is ESTIMATED money.  We have had no proration because of the discipline that the rolling reserve dictates.”

Sen. Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) said, “I would like to speak in favor of the bill: SB12. I collect quotes. British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressing a joint session of Congress said on the war on terror, ‘Somewhere in Idaho there is a common man saying why us? Why now?  Because destiny has put you in this place.’  I am tired of playing whack a mole with the General Fund Budget.  I am tired of this every year. Put this before the body of the Senate.  I think the citizens of the state deserve to know that at the same time we are wrestling with gambling or raising taxes the state needs to know how we spend our money.”

Sen. Williams said, “I am a child of public education. My family is full of educators. My new daughter-in-law is an educator. Growth revenues are in the education fund. This does not break the rolling reserve.  Education would never be funded lower than at current levels. I think that this is a way to avoid a consolidated budget. The call will only get louder for a consolidated budget if we don’t share some of those revenues with the General Fund.”

Sen. Williams warned that voting no on SB12 could become a clarion call to combine the budgets: “That debate is already happening.  I don’t see SB12 as a raid on education.  SB12 does not do away with that budget. State troopers, roads and bridges are essential State services.  If the streets are not safe and essential programs and policies don’t continue to stay up then our education system will suffer by default.  We have fundamental opportunities to change how we do business.”

Susan Kennedy with the Alabama Education Association (AEA) told the committee, “I applaud Sen. Sanford for addressing a problem that we all know is there. People have long recognized that the General Fund has no growth taxes. People pay taxes to education in this state. The people voted to send their tax dollars to education. Banks, insurance companies and oil taxes go to the General Fund. There are some extremely large exemptions in the General Fund that the state should look at eliminating.  “When you combine the budgets you make us both broke.”

Kennedy was the only citizen who opted to speak at the public hearing.

Sen. Dial moved to indefinitely postpone any action on SB12.  It was seconded by Sen. Quinton Ross.

The motion to keep SB12 from coming to the Senate floor passed by an 8 to 5 vote.

An angry Sen. Sanford said, “I look forward to seeing 8 solutions being brought forward from this committee.”

Chairman Pittman said, “We are in a killing mood today.”

Sen. Sanders said, “We are in a protecting mood.”

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

Advertisement

Health

Vaccines should protect against mutated strains of coronavirus

Public health experts say it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public.

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

Multiple vaccines for COVID-19 are in clinical trials, and one has already applied for emergency use authorization, but how good will those vaccines be against a mutating coronavirus? A UAB doctor says they’ll do just fine. 

Dr. Rachael Lee, UAB’s hospital epidemiologist, told reporters earlier this week that there have been small genetic mutations in COVID-19. What researchers are seeing in the virus here is slightly different than what’s seen in the virus in China, she said. 

“But luckily the way that these vaccines have been created, specifically the mRNA vaccines, is an area that is the same for all of these viruses,” Lee said, referring to the new type of vaccine known as mRNA, which uses genetic material, rather than a weakened or inactive germ, to trigger an immune response. 

The U.S. Food And Drug Administration is to review the drug company Pfizer’s vaccine on Dec. 10. Pfizer’s vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, as is a vaccine produced by the drug maker Moderna, which is expected to also soon apply for emergency use approval. 

“I think that is incredibly good news, that even though we may see some slight mutations,  we should have a vaccine that should cover all of those different mutations,” Lee said. 

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found in a recent study, published in the journal Science, that COVID-19 has mutated in ways that make it spread much more easily, but the mutation may also make it more susceptible to vaccines. 

ADVERTISEMENT

In a separate study, researchers with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation found that while most vaccines were modeled after an earlier strain of COVID-19, they found no evidence that the vaccines wouldn’t provide the same immunity response for the new, more dominant strain. 

“This brings the world one step closer to a safe and effective vaccine to protect people and save lives,” said CSIRO chief executive Dr. Larry Marshall, according to Science Daily

While it may not be long before vaccines begin to be shipped to states, public health experts warn it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public. Scarce supplies at first will be allocated for those at greatest risk, including health care workers who are regularly exposed to coronavirus patients, and the elderly and ill. 

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking to APR last week, urged the public to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing for many more months, as the department works to make the vaccines more widely available.

Public Service Announcement

“Just because the first shots are rolling out doesn’t mean it’s time to stop doing everything we’ve been trying to get people to do for months. It’s not going to be widely available for a little while,” Harris said.

Continue Reading

News

Tuberville looks forward to public service “probably for the rest of my life”

Tuberville’s term as senator will begin on Jan. 3 when the 117th Congress is sworn in.

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville during an interview with Sean Spicer on Newsmax.

U.S. Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, told Newsmax’s Sean Spicer that he looks forward to the opportunity to give back to this country.

“After winning this and after being up here a couple of weeks and seeing how much of a difference we have made just to this point in the Senate has been gratifying,” Tuberville said. “I look forward to doing public service probably for the rest of my life.”

Tuberville said that he was 18 years old when the Vietnam War was coming to a close and then got into coaching so never served in the military and looks forward to the opportunity to give back to the country.

“As I went around the state of Alabama for those two years though I learned the respect of the people and how much that they want this country to remain the United States of America that we know and grew up in to go by the Constitution and those things. As I went through the campaign I got more and more fond of that I want to give back,” Tuberville said.

“I never served, I never gave back, but God was so good to me and my wife my family,” Tuberville said. “Giving back means so much to me after I was given so much for many, many years.”

Tuberville said that education will be a priority for him, getting education back to fundamentals like reading, writing, history and math. Tuberville said that unless the country gets back to fundamentals in education, “This country is not going to make it. We have got to get back to fundamentals and we are getting farther and farther every day.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Tuberville was the only Republican on Nov. 3 to defeat an incumbent Senate Democrat when he unseated Sen. Doug Jones.

“I want to be the voice for the people of Alabama,” Tuberville explained. “The previous Senator was a voice for his party, the Democratic party.”

Tuberville, a career college football coach, reiterated his position that we should play sports and send kids back to school despite the coronavirus global pandemic.

“I think we are doing a lot better in sports than we are doing in a lot of other areas,” Tuberville said. “I was keeping my fingers crossed back in August that we would let our young kids go play high school sports, number one, and then we get into college sports. There are so many people throwing negatives on why we should not do that. But I can tell you, you can see many more positives if we go back to school and we play sports. It’s important that we attack this virus as it has been attacking us. If it gives us an inch, we gotta take it.”

Public Service Announcement

Tuberville reiterated his opposition to shutting down restaurants, schools and businesses to fight the virus.

“We have to get back to everyday life,” Tuberville said. “You can’t keep shutting people down. Freedom is a power that we have. A power that we have earned because of our forefathers. We can’t give that up.”

Tuberville is an Arkansas native. He was the head football coach at Auburn University where he won an SEC championship, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, and Cincinnati. Prior to that, he was a national championship defensive coordinator at the University of Miami. He was also the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M.

Tuberville’s term as senator will begin on Jan. 3 when the 117th Congress is sworn in.

Continue Reading

National

UAB cancels third game

The only remaining game on UAB’s schedule is a game at Rice on Dec. 12.

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

The UAB Department of Athletics on Thursday announced that it is canceling its final home game of the season. UAB was scheduled to play Southern Mississippi on Friday at Legion Field, but the game was canceled due to continuing problems with COVID-19.

UAB has said that it will “continue to work with Conference USA on the remaining regular-season schedule.”

The only remaining game on UAB’s schedule is a game at Rice on Dec. 12.

UAB currently has a record of just four wins and three losses.

A win at Rice would guarantee the Blazers a winning season, but in this COVID altered season, a four and three or four and four record is probably good enough to be bowl eligible.

Southern Miss has had a dreadful season. They are two and seven and have two remaining games, against UTEP and Florida Atlantic. Both of those games were postponed from earlier in the season.

ADVERTISEMENT

Unless the season is extended a week to the 19th, there is no way for UAB and Southern Miss to make up the canceled game.

Continue Reading

News

Official state Christmas tree was delivered

The approximately 35-foot tree will be displayed on the front steps of the state Capitol building.

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

The 2016 state Christmas tree in front of the state Capitol.

Alabama’s official Christmas Tree was delivered to the state Capitol this week.

This year’s tree was donated by Robbins Taylor Sr. It is an Eastern Red Cedar that was grown in Letohatchee, Alabama.

The approximately 35-foot tree will be displayed on the front steps of the state Capitol building.

The tree will be adorned with lights and decorations ahead of the Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Friday, Dec. 4. Gov. Ivey’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Capitol in Montgomery.

Alabama became the first state in the nation to make Christmas an official government holiday in 1836. Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement