Last week we all received word that Alabama would receive $2.3 billion dollars from BP as compensation for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster; $1.3 billion for environmental damages and $1 billion for economic damages. Almost immediately Alabama lawmakers were making recommendations on how to spend the $1 billion. The billion in economic dollars are earmarked for our state’s General Fund and are allocated at the discretion of the Legislature.
Hats off to General Fund chairman Senator Arthur Orr and Representative Steve Clouse for their plans to introduce bills during the special session to use these economic settlement dollars not to plug budget holes but to repay our debts. As a state, we already owe ourselves $582 million dollars due to two separate loans taken from the Alabama Trust Fund and add to that amount $114 million due back to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for overpayments and adjustments. That adds up to $696 million dollars, that by law, we must repay. To date, only $15 million of the $696 million has been paid back which goes to show our lawmakers are really good at the spending part and not so good on the repaying part.
I fully support any bill to ensure this windfall of revenue will be used to pay off Alabama debts. We could then turn our focus to the real problem – our state’s need to create more revenue – so we will never find ourselves in this position again.