MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) – Alabama's Republican majorities in both the House and Senate made serious gains Tuesday on a pair of measures they have described as critical in the early stages of the legislative session.
First, the House of Representatives passed the "Responsible Budgeting and Spending Act," also known as the "Rolling Reserve Bill."
Under the proposal, the Education Trust Fund's budget would be crafted based on historical averages rather than projected revenue gains. It would also set an annual cap on education spending which could vary from year to year.
GOP leaders contend that it could be a panacea from the governor calling proration in the future.
"We have ups and downs in our economy that typically will last between ten and fifteen years" said Rep. Greg Canfield, (R – Vestavia Hills). "Well, we've done a great job spending on the way up but we may no provision for the fall down."
Democrats lined up to oppose it. They filibustered for approximately four hours. There was a break in the middle for the State of the Judiciary address.
"This will not end proration" said Sen. Richard Lindsey, (D – Cherokee), a former chairman of the Education Budget Committee. "Anyone who says that is wrong."
Canfield, the sponsor of the bill, said he wasn't sure of any other state that utilized a similar budgeting plan.
In the Senate, the GOP majority outlasted another Democrat effort to block a priority bill. The DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Program) was described by Republicans as a "Cadillac" or "Rolls-Royce" retirement plan that allowed state employees to collect their retirement fund in a lump sum while still being employed.
"We just can't afford it. The money's not there," said Sen. Del Marsh, (R – Anniston) who sponsored the measure.
It passed on a straight party-line vote of 32-13.
Democrats charged that the GOP was attempting to balance the state's budget on the backs of the middle class and state employees. Republicans acknowledged that the state's General Fund Budget depended on the money saved by repealing the DROP.
Sen. Roger Bedford (D – Russellville) the Senate Minority Leader said "People who've been planning for decades to take advantage of this retirement program certainly got stabbed in the back by the Republican party today."
The bill will be received by the House Wednesday.