By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, September 25 Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) on Wednesday sent a letter to the Alabama Supreme Court requesting an Opinion of the Justices on the constitutionality of certain provisions of the state general fund (SGF) budget he recently signed following Alabama’s Second 2015 legislative special session.
Governor Bentley said in a statement, “The Constitution separates our government into three, separate but equal, branches. As Governor, it is my duty to protect Executive Branch functions as supported by the Alabama Constitution. The new Fiscal Year begins October 1, and I have some concerns regarding the implementation of the General Fund Appropriations Act that was passed by the Alabama Legislature in September. There are provisions in the budget act that encroach on the authority of the Executive Branch to implement budget allocations within state government. I believe these provisions of the budget act are in violation of the Alabama Constitution, which expressly preserves the separation of powers in government. I further believe there is language in the act which violates the constitutional restrictions on creation of state debt and on the content allowed in appropriations bills. For these reasons, I have asked the Alabama Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of the requested sections of the General Fund Appropriations Act as quickly as possible. The next week is critical to ensuring state agencies have operation plans in place for the start of the fiscal year.”
Specifically Governor Bentley is questioning language in the budget requiring the executive branch to keep open all the rural driver’s license and state trooper posts currently operating in the state. Threatening to close the offices and posts was used as leverage by the Bentley administration to persuade legislators to come to the negotiating table and pass a $1.75 billion SGF budget…..that raised taxes, raided money from the education trust fund (ETF), and level funded the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).
The Governor is also challenging a provision in the budget that restricts state agencies from spending their money on new buildings and other capital projects. Under the budget, to build a new building state agency heads would have to get permission from at least two of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee Chairman, the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee Chairman and the state Finance Director.
Similarly the Governor is also challenging a provision in the budget that restricts state agencies from spending their money on purchasing and leasing new state vehicles. Under the budget, permission for purchasing or leasing new state vehicles would have to be submitted in writing to the state Finance Director, the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee Chairman, and the Senate Finance and Taxation Committees Chairman. A majority of the three would have to sign off before the vehicles could be purchased.
Finally the Governor is challenging a provision that cuts to SGF agencies be administrative in nature and not cuts in benefits to citizen of Alabama.
The 2016 SGF budget goes into effect on Thursday.