By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Many across the State have speculated that the legislature might pass some sort of gambling bill to let the voters decide on legalizing casinos and/or a state lottery. Speaker of the Alabama House of Representative Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) attempted to quash any such rumors.
The Speaker said that gambling, “is a moot point” and to consider gambling legislation would be, “A total waste of our time. That doesn’t do anything to help us in 2016.”
Speaker Hubbard said that any gambling legislation passed would require a constitutional amendment so it wouldn’t arrive soon enough to help the Fiscal year 2016 budget anyway.
Gov. Robert Bentley vetoed the budget the legislature passed in June because he believes the SGF needs more revenue rather than more downsizing. The Governor said in a statement on Monday, “We have debts that are owed and services that Alabamians expect (troopers, roads, etc.). There is not enough revenue to meet the State’s needs.”
The Governor has developed a complicated plan that would raise taxes by $310 million on the people of Alabama, transfer funds from the Education Trust Fund (ETF) to the SGF, eliminate a number of earmarks, and borrow $50 million to build a high-priced hotel in a hurricane zone.
Speaker Hubbard would not commit to supporting the Bentley plan. Speaker Hubbard said, “We want to look at all options. We have some ideas that were not in the Governor’s call.” Hubbard said that the legislature would not be “pigeon holed” by the Governor’s agenda. “The Legislature will come up with its own solution.”
Hubbard said that the legislature passes legislation and writes the budget not the Governor. “That is how separation of powers work.”
When asked about the BP settlement money for the ‘Deepwater Horizons’ explosion and oil spill, Speaker Hubbard said that none of the BP settlement money will be used to pay for current spending. “We won’t use anything from BP for anything, but debt retirement. The best solution is to pay off debts. That’s what Dave Ramsey tells us to do.”
Speaker Hubbard said that Gov. Bentley only gave him a half hour notice that there was going to be a Special Session on Monday, before he made the Thursday announcement. “He wanted the element of surprise,” Speaker Hubbard said.
Speaker Hubbard said that the House has task forces working on options and between now and August 3, they will fully vet everything. “There is a lot of work to do.”
Speaker Hubbard said that the General Fund Committee was preparing targeted cuts and that he expected to pass “something similar to what we sent up to the Senate,” (the austerity budget).
The Alabama Political Reporter asked key Hubbard aide, Rachel Adams: “Does the Governor have representatives to carry all of his bills….this time?”
Adams said: “He says he does,” but did not know who that would be.
Finance Director Bill Newton told reporters that the Governor is not going to waste time trying to talk people into carrying his bills. He just puts his ideas out there for the legislature to pick up.