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Senate withstands filibuster, passes ETF budget

Josh Moon

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By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama Senate on Tuesday finally waited out Sen. Paul Bussman and passed its version of the State’s Education Budget.

The $6.4 billion Education Trust Fund Budget increases overall funding by a bit more than 1 percent, or about $90 million, and mostly level funds K-12 schools and higher ed. However, the overall share of the ETF budget declined again, bring the wrath of Bussman, who essentially carried out a two-day filibuster.

On Tuesday, Bussman went full Tim Russert, hauling out a giant, white dry-erase board and black marker as a visual aid. Bussman spent a few hours explaining, by way of various calculations, how the legislature has slowly but surely taken $43 million from K-12 schools over the last six years.

The overall budget sum going to K-12 has increased with each budget, but Bussman showed that the percentage of the budget split had lessened for K-12 and increased for higher ed. In addition, he found a number of expenses in the K-12 portion of the budget that benefited higher ed or no education entity at all.

Among those entities receiving ETF funding, according to Bussman, is Blackbelt Adventures, which promotes outdoor tourism in Blackbelt counties. Also, some police training programs and National Guard programs.

Bussman also noted that more than $23 million in debt service for higher ed construction projects was paid by the K-12 budget.

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“It’s just not right what we’re doing and we know it,” Bussman said. “K-12 is paying 76 cents on the dollar for higher ed debt. That’s a great deal if you’re higher ed. In the meantime, K-12 schools are struggling.”

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Bussman proposed an amendment that would have moved $20 million from the higher ed portion of the ETF to the K-12. That amendment failed, and in the end, senators passed the ETF Budget that basically advanced out of committee, 29-2.

The Bussman filibuster didn’t amuse some of his colleagues. Sen. Cam Ward, on Twitter during the filibuster, called it “needless” and said the budget vote was being held up by “those who can’t get their amendments adopted.”

Sen. Arthur Orr, the author of the ETF budget, called Bussman’s filibuster a “soliloquy” and ran through his own numbers to refute some of Bussman’s claims.

“In the end, I wanted to try to level fund everyone,” Orr said from the floor. “I didn’t want to hurt one to help the other.”

The budget now moves to the House.

 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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