Alabama is whittling down the debt it owes to a state trust fund for money borrowed during the recession.
Gov. Robert Bentley announced Thursday that the state will repay $70 million to the Alabama Trust Fund from fiscal 2014 revenue. Half of that was required by state law, and the other half became available because of extra revenue the state received.
Gov. Robert Bentley and legislative leaders kept a promise Wednesday to enact legislation requiring the repayment of $437 million taken from a state trust fund to bolster state budgets.
Bentley signed a bill passed by the Legislature that mandates the repayment to the trust fund through annual appropriations concluding in 2026. The bill was the first passed by the Legislature in the current session.
Gov. Robert Bentley has done something neither of Alabama's last two governors could do: Get voters to turn out in a special election to pass a major initiative defining their administrations.
Bentley said the constitutional amendment withdrawing money from the Alabama Trust Fund didn't involve moral issues like Gov. Don Siegelman's lottery vote in 1999 or tax increases like Gov. Bob Riley's $1.2 billion tax plan in 2003.
About 22 percent of Alabama's voters turned out to approve a constitutional amendment withdrawing $437 million from a state trust fund to help balance the state General Fund budget for the next three years. Unofficial returns compiled by The Associated Press show about 600,000 of Alabama's 2.67 million voters participated in Tuesday's special election, and they approved the constitutional amendment 65 percent to 35 percent. The turnout was in line with the 20 to 21 percent predicted by Alabama's chief election official, Secretary of State Beth Chapman.
Election officials say the turnout for Alabama's single-issue election is light. Voters are deciding Tuesday whether to take $437 million out of a state trust fund to help balance the state General Fund budget for the next three years. Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen says the turnout in his south Alabama county could end up between 10 and 13 percent. Election officials in other counties say turnout picked up when the rain stopped, but it's still going to be small. Montgomery County is an exception. Elections Director Justin Aday said turnout could end up being 25 to 30 percent.
The Alabama Nursing Home Association is proud of the fact that at least one nursing home is available in every county in the state. But if the budget referendum taking place tomorrow fails that effort could be in danger. John Matson is a spokesman for the Alabama Nursing Home Association. He says a vote of "no" tomorrow could spell deep cuts on the horizon.
About 50 people gathered on the steps of the Alabama Capitol to urge residents to vote "no" Tuesday on a constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of $437.4 million from the Alabama Trust Fund to be used for Medicaid, prisons and other state services. Holding signs urging voters to not "bust" the trust fund, the demonstrators Thursday listened to representatives of grassroots groups who said the principle from the fund, established by former Gov. Fob James, was never meant to be spent.
Friday is the deadline to register to vote in Alabama's constitutional amendment referendum on Sept. 18.
Secretary of State Beth Chapman says citizens can register at their local board of registrars or they can fill out forms at state and county offices that provide public assistance, such as the state Department of Human Resources. She says forms are also available when obtaining or renewing a driver's license.
Chapman is also reminding voters that Thursday, Sept. 13 is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot for the referendum.
The board that oversees the Alabama Trust Fund is not taking a position on whether voters should approve taking more than $437 million out of the fund to help operate state government.
The board chairman, Gov. Robert Bentley, said he did not ask the board to take a position during a meeting Thursday because the board manages the $2.3 billion fund, but it's up to voters to decide the issue in a statewide referendum Sept. 18.
Gov. Robert Bentley says he and legislative leaders are committed to paying back the money if Alabama voters agree to take more than $437 million from a state trust fund to balance the state General Fund budget for three years.