By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—State Auditor Jim Zeigler believes, if a proposed BP bill fails, the entire Legislative Session will be a waste.
Zeigler favors the compromise bill to allocate $850 million in BP settlement split between State debt and Baldwin and Mobile counties. Under the agreement $448 million would repay State debts and $191 million would go to Baldwin and Mobile counties, which were directly impacted by the spill. “Repaying the debt will then free up $70 million for the General Fund, filling the reported shortfall in the Medicaid budget,” according to Zeigler.
Coming on the heels of a contentious session, doubts that the House and Senate can find common ground are widespread.
However, Zeigler believes Governor Robert Bentley’s failed leadership is causing the session to grind to a near fatal halt. “The governor did not do his homework on the lottery bill, plus it was a badly flawed bill,” Zeigler said. “That leaves only the BP bill to keep the session from being a total failure.” Zeigler supports legislation granting authority to sell bonds paid back from BP payments that will total $850 million over 17 years. According to Zeigler, the bond issue would produce about $639 million.
The State owes $584 million to the Alabama Trust Fund, which was created in the 1980s to conserve money the State receives from gas wells in the Gulf.
Zeigler, a constant critic of the Governor, blames Bentley for failing to pass such legislation in the last Regular Session. “The citizens I talk with have a strong feeling that the Special Session was not necessary and was not well handled by the Bentley administration,” said Zeigler. “The taxpaying public resents having to pay for a Special Session, when the issues could have and should have been addressed in the Regular Session.”
Very few lawmakers express confidence in finding a solution in three short days, but Bentley seems determine to drive forward, even though his political capital in the State House is less than zero.