By Thomas Scovill
SB267 is a bill proposed by Senator Hightower of Mobile County, to grab the State’s BP settlement money for road projects in Baldwin and Mobile Counties on the Gulf coast.
The $1 billion in the State settlement is just one of many settlements. Many individuals, businesses, and local governments have already gotten, or will get money in other settlements for their particular damages.
On top of this, in another settlement, Alabama is getting $1.3 billion for environmental damages, and most of that must necessarily be used where the damage to the environment is on the Gulf coast.
The subject of the Hightower bill is the disposition of the money coming to Alabama for damages to the State as a whole, e.g., lost State government revenue from sales and income taxes, increased costs to the State for more social services, etc.
Hightower wants to sell revenue bonds based on the the funding stream of the BP settlement, and then hog the proceeds for pork in the Gulf coast counties, sharing a bit of it with upstate counties, just to get his bill passed. But his scheme is out of balance: two coast counties get $130 million each; 65 other counties average $2.5 million each.
These are grasshopper priorities.
The best use of the State’s BP settlement funds, would be to pay off money the State borrowed from the Alabama Trust Fund (ATF), to keep the General Fund afloat in 2010 and 2012 – a total of $600 million. Hightower proposes to repay only the $160 million borrowed by Democrats in 2010, while he ignores the $440 million borrowed by Republicans in 2012.
We know that unless the BP revenue is used for it, the money borrowed from the ATF is not likely to ever be repaid.
Let’s encourage our legislators to abandon the grasshopper priorities of Senator Hightower.
Let’s encourage lawmakers to use the BP settlement revenue to repay the money they borrowed from the ATF, borrowed for the convenience of kicking General Fund decisions down the road.
Well, we are now down the road.
Let’s not kick the can, yet again.