Alabama's new GOP Legislature addresses budgets

Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery
Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Alabama Legislature convenes today and for the first time in 136 years, Republicans will be writing the state budgets.

Gov. Robert Bentley has met with other state leaders about his budget plans for 2012 and will outline them for the first time in his State of the State Address at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Bentley says his speech will present a realistic account of the budget crisis facing state government.

He declared a 3 percent proration on the fiscal year 2011 Education Trust Fund on Monday, a move that will deepen the fiscal problems already confronting local school systems.

Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, who is chairman of the Education Ways and Means Committee, told WSFA 12 News on Tuesday morning that the Legislature will try "to create every efficiency we can and see that every dollar is spent wisely."

"We will do all we can to help local school systems," he said. "But they will have to make cuts and I know they are cut to the bone."

Love said he will sponsor a "rolling reserve bill" on Wednesday that will allow for "responsible budgeting" that he feels can "eliminate proration from the vocabulary of state government." But the bill won't be able to help the current situation, he said.

He also said he and other Republicans are looking at other legislation to make tax credits available to small and middle-sized businesses that will help in the Governor's campaign promise to create more jobs in Alabama.

Dr. Joe Morton, Superintendent for the Department of Education said Monday that while proration is never a welcomed announcement, it's good to get the news now so that administrators can begin making cuts with seven months left in the fiscal year, than later when there would be less opportunity to cut the budget.

But he is concerned some school systems may have to borrow money which could deepen the crisis.

"My fear is that even more school systems will have to borrow more money  to make it to the end of the fiscal year," he said. "This, along with anticipated budget cuts in the upcoming legislative session will push more systems closer to the brink of insolvency. These are perilous times in K-12 education."

Other big issues that are expected come up include cutting the number of holidays for state employees, increasing the amount teachers and state employees pay for health benefits and their pension and reducing tenure for teachers.

The General Fund is up for significant cuts as well, Bentley indicated in his Monday announcement.

"Both our Education Trust Fund and our state's General Fund budgets are based on unreliable revenue projections," said Governor Bentley. "Now, five months into the 2011 Fiscal Year, it is clear that there is not enough revenue to sustain either budget. Pr oration is necessary to balance the budgets."

Copyright 2011 WSFA. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.