If you head to the polls next month, your vote could be worth millions of dollars.
Alabama voters will decide on September 18th if they want to allow lawmakers to withdraw more than $400 million from the state’s oil and gas fund, a de facto savings account that currently holds more than $2 billion.
Lawmakers voted to put the question on the ballot earlier this year, a plan that has since been endorsed by Gov. Robert Bentley (R) and other legislative leaders. Gov. Bentley said it’s needed to cover major funding shortfalls in next year’s budget which begins on October 1st. Medicaid and the state prison system have been identified as some of the most vulnerable agencies that currently face shortfalls.
But other lawmakers have said the plan amounts to a raid on the state’s valuable oil and gas account, while also claiming that it fails to address wasteful spending. State Sen. Paul Sanford (R) of Huntsville told WHNT News 19 he was encouraging his constituents to vote no on the ballot issue.
“I’m against the amendment,” said Sanford, who endorses an alternative budget plan that aims to erase the deficit by cutting millions in government pork. “I and the people I talk to don’t see the willingness to trust that the government is going to do the responsible thing…One of my bills that passed this year consolidated two agencies: Department of Labor and Department of Industrial Relations. I think we need to do more measures like that and curtail some cost. A lot of these suggestions have been put on the desk and are collecting dust.”
If the ballot initiative fails, Governor Bentley has the option of implementing automatic across the board cuts to all state agencies. The governor’s office previously said such cuts would amount to roughly 17% of total spending. Gov. Bentley can also choose to call a special session in late September where lawmakers would have a say in where the final cuts would come from.