Mon February 2, 2004
Major Battles Loom In Legislative Session
By Alabama Public Radio
Montgomery, AL – A recent survey by the Associated Press indicates that some major legislative battles could be looming during the upcoming regular session.
The survey shows that Alabama's House and Senate are split on whether to raise taxes to offset a projected 350 million dollar budget shortfall. Among the 86 percent of Senators who answered the survery, 47-percent of them support raising new taxes. Meanwhile, among the 74 percent of House members polled, only 29 percent favored new taxes. A large percentage of lawmakers were undecided.
That could present a major roadblock to any changes because the state constitution requires bills increasing taxes to pass the House before they can be considered by the Senate.
Meanwhile, another AP poll shows a major battle is looming in the upcoming legislative session over efforts to change the benefits system for state employees.
A majority of the House and Senate says state workers and education employees should pay more toward the cost of their state-funded health insurance. But the Alabama Education Association and other lobbying groups for public employees are getting ready to to oppose that plan. Governor Bob Riley says health insurance costs are skyrocketing, and it will take an extra 175-million dollars to maintain the current benefits system next fiscal year.
Benefits officials say they expect Riley to propose allocating the same amount of money to insurance benefits that was given this year. That would leave it up to benefits officials to either increase the amount state workers pay or cut benefits.