MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Governor Robert Bentley released details of his "call" for the upcoming Special Session of the State Legislature. The main focus, of course, is the General Fund Budget.
"This call is designed for the Legislature to solve the budget crisis that exists in the General Fund Budget,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “Over the last few months, I have met with House and Senate members to discuss options and ideas that would prevent devastating cuts to state services. I look forward to working with lawmakers over the next few weeks to bring about real change in the way we fund state government moving forward.”
The call includes three budget reform measures:
- Transfer use tax from Education Trust Fund to the General Fund
- Un-earmark certain state taxes
- Amens the Education Trust Fund Rolling Reserve Act
The call also includes revenue increase measures:
- Amend the Business Privilege Tax
- Increase the Cigarette Tax
- Amend the Individual income tax deduction of Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA)
- Any other revenue measures that provide revenue for the General Fund
You can view the signed copy of the Governor's Call here.
It's that last bullet point that seems a little open-ended, but legislators we spoke with say that's probably by design. Rep. Mac McCutcheon, (R) Madison County, said, "What [I think the governor] was trying to do was say, 'Hey, if there's a piece of legislation out there that the legislature can agree on that brings revenue back to the general fund, I want to make sure that we leave that door open.'"
But it could mean that door is also open to a widely-debated lottery. McCutcheon explains that bills outlined in the governor's call only need a simple majority to pass instead of the regular 2/3 vote. If there's a bill that specifically deals with growth revenue as outlined in the governor's call, then it just might fit that criteria.
And he adds, gambling isn't something he doesn't necessarily oppose.
"Don't try to pay our bills by gambling," he argued, "but if a lottery came up for a vote, then let the people vote on it."
He says revenue-raising can be tricky, so legislators will have to work hard to reach a consensus on growth revenue measures. But he's optimistic, saying there's some middle ground this time around that should help with that.
Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) issued a statement in response to Bentley's Special Session call.
“We will certainly consider at least some of the bills in Gov. Bentley's call and various members have their own proposals they will likely bring forward, as well. The House and Senate leadership have worked closely together in good faith, and I'm hopeful that both houses will come together on a common ground solution before the final gavel falls.”
The Special Session is set to begin at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 8.