Huntsville, Ala. (WHNT) – The special session for the Alabama Legislature to settle the budget conflict is coming up on August the third. Representative Howard Sanderford is the second longest serving Republican in the House of Representatives. This week Rep. Sanderford stopped by WHNT News 19 to give his senior legislative perspective on what he expects to happen in the upcoming session.
Not long ago the Legislature met for a special session but then immediately adjourned. Many people were concerned that our elected officials were not on the same page. “The leadership in the house and the senate thought they had an agreement with the Governor to call the special session on August the 17th, and that date was selected because of a lot of task forces looking at different issues that needed to come up, and they needed to try and complete their work on it. Then it’s my understanding that the Governor got nervous that the gambling interests were really beginning to gain interest and all and that they were going to have more momentum if he didn’t call the special session.” Sanderford explained. “So my understanding is that’s why he called it when he did, and of course I think the legislature probably did the right thing. They adjourned and we’ll be waiting on all the input from the task forces that come in and then we’ll go in on August the third and start working on many of these recommendations from the task forces, but it’s not going to be easy. No one wants to raise taxes.”
Besides the issue of raising taxes and the deep cutting of programs, the idea of legalized gambling in some form has really picked up momentum this year. In previous years that idea was quickly squashed but now some say the idea has merit and are willing to consider it. “When Republicans took over in 2010, the one item that we didn’t spend a lot of time on was the gambling issue. It never came up. And then all of a sudden at the end of the year last year it was introduced, and so now it looks it will be up, and it may possibly be up for some general debate.” Sanderford claims that, “It’ll have to have a majority vote of legislators to put it on the calendar because it was not on the Governors call. They’re working awfully hard and people are seeing the Poarch Creek Indian ads which look good on the surface. That, hey, we will help you solve the problem, however, the however is the problem. That’s money to come in the future. It’s my understanding they want a guarantee that they will have the only rights going to the gambling area and you know nobody should have exclusive rights to anything you might say. And yet on the other side the state has no control over them because of the Interior Department. The state can sue them and do all that, but the bottom line, the Indians are run by the Interior Department, and so they have that. And what they want is a location in north Alabama. Part of the 250-million dollars, as I understand it. So they want to have a place in north Alabama along with what they already have. And then they will pay the equivalent of 250-million dollars in taxes. But even if we had gambling or we voted for it, it would not solve the problem we have this time. We’ve got to solve the problem and have the money available by October the first when the General fund starts.”
The bottom line is that currently Alabama is in the red and the Governor wants to solve the 200-million dollar problem with a series of tax hikes. While some legislators are fine with some tax increases, other aren’t fine with any. Representative Sanderford says that, “I think there will be some tax hikes. Will it be enough to fill the budget? I’m not sure.”
Watch our conversation with Rep. Sanderford in three parts here: