Judge tosses suit over Ala. telephone fees

A judge has tossed a lawsuit challenging the state's transfer of $30 million to the education budget from a private fund that pays for telephone services for the deaf and blind.

Alabama Public Service Commission member Terry Dunn says he's disappointed by the decision Monday of the Montgomery County Circuit Court judge. But he said the PSC has taken the steps necessary to transfer the money.

"I opposed this move for a number of reasons," Dunn said, "but primarily because we were right on the threshold of being able to take away the surcharge on telephone bills forever...the Dual Party Relay System was expected to become self-sustaining within a year."

The Alabama Dual Party Relay Board, which oversees money collected from telephone customers to pay for the service, had filed suit. Under a new state law, money collected from a surcharge on all landlines in Alabama will be transferred to the state education budget.

Dunn, a Republican wrapping up the first year of his tenure on the PSC, said he's aware of the state's economic troubles, but firmly believes the law is political in nature and forces the PSC to raise money to balance the state's education budget. "Make no mistake," Dunn said," it is a backdoor tax."

Rep. Jay Love, a Republican from Montgomery who sponsored the law, said he's glad the judge upheld the law.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. WSFA 12 News contributed. All Rights Reserved.)