State Government Faces Challenge To Pay Back Funds Granted By State Amendment

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Voters gave a critical state amendment a decisive victory at the polls Tuesday, handily defeating those who believed the state should leave an important government trust fund untouched.

Many in Montgomery will consider it a major victory, as it will make paying the bills much easier for the next few years.

So how did Governor Robert Bentley mark the legislative milestone?  

Not as emphatically as you might think.

Governor Bentley says, "This just gives us a little breathing room to get through this difficult time.  We still have a long way to go."

Bentley did point out while voters did give access to key funds, the state has not permanently solved any of its problems with new money, "We're just barely keeping our heads above water.  We knew that 2013 was going to be the most difficult year, because all the stimulus money was gone.  Everything has been borrowed out."

How to pay it back is an issue for another day, maybe even another year.

Bentley assures, "We've made a promise to the people of the state.  We're going to work with the legislature and make sure that there is wording in legislation to guarantee the people of this state that this money will be paid back."

But it's not going to be easy, no matter how strong the desire to refill the trust fund is among both the legislators and the voters of Alabama.

State Senator Paul Sanford says, "We all want to pay the money back, but what you're going to find is, in order to just make ends meet now, we're going to have to make cuts.  And then on top of that we're going to cut even further, so we can pay back the money that we just asked the citizens to take out of the trust."

That leaves the government as the bearer of bad news.  Tuesday's vote didn't end the difficulties; it just prolonged  the need for hard choices.

Governor Bentley says, "Everything is going to be with some pain.  Every time we cut something the people are used to receiving, it's going to be with some pain, and we know that."

We'll see if Alabama voters will tolerate the pain it takes to refill trust fund coffers.