MONTGOMERY – Alabama voters, by a margin of nearly 2 to 1, approved a constitutional amendment that allows the government to borrow $437 million from The Alabama Trust Fund. The money will be used to plug any holes in the budget where needed. Primarily, the money will be used to keep thousands of state employees in their jobs, keep more than than 9,000 inmates in prison, support Medicaid, and keep courts and other non-education related functions of government operating.
Opponents of the amendment were outraged that the measure passed. They said they had rather the State cut programs than raid the fund or raise taxes.
Mark Kennedy, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, praised voters for saving the jobs of “countless friends and neighbors” but criticized Republican lawmakers for placing the issue before voters. “It is an absolute disgrace that rather than simply doing the only job they are constitutionally mandated to do, Republican legislators not only shirked their responsibility but gave the people of Alabama only two options — to see their neighbors suffer or to see the state’s savings account depleted,” Kennedy said in a statement.
Governor Robert Bentley last night issued a statement on the amendment, of which he had asked the voters in the state to approve. “I want to thank the voters for approving the state’s plan to temporarily borrow funds from our savings account to help get us through these difficult economic times without raising taxes. Once again, I pledge to the people of this state that the funds transferred to help support critical state services will be paid back.
“In the first 20 months of this Administration, we have passed laws and taken executive action that will save the state $675 million annually. We will continue our efforts to increase efficiency and reduce government spending. My goal is to identify a billion dollars in savings by the end of my first term, and that goal is well within reach. Since taking office, we have helped create more than 26,000 new jobs for people in communities across Alabama, and we will aggressively continue our job creation efforts.
“Despite these savings and despite these new jobs, the General Fund still needs this temporary funding bridge from the Alabama Trust Fund to maintain essential services as we continue to streamline and right-size government. We have also identified stronger sources of revenue for the General Fund without raising taxes. Through these combined measures, we will put our state in a stronger financial position for the future.”
The General Fund provides tax dollars to non-education agencies such as the state’s court and prison systems, the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Public Health and the state’s Medicaid program.
Medicaid provides health and long-term care to low-income residents. While most of the dollars for Medicaid come from the federal government, Alabama must provide about a third of the money.
The Alabama Trust Fund was established years ago to collect royalties from oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. It has about $2.3 billion in invested assets.