The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 14, 2012

Legislature needs to act on Trust Fund payback plan


Associated Press

The Gadsden Times on state’s trust fund repayment:

The constitutional amendment Alabama’s voters approved Sept. 18 authorizing a $437 million transfer over three years from the state’s trust fund to its ailing General Fund contained no mechanism for repaying the money.

Still, Gov. Robert Bentley vowed during his fight for the amendment’s passage that the money would be repaid. So did Alabama’s most powerful legislators, House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, and Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston. They said a repayment bill would be the first piece of legislation passed in the 2013 legislative session four months from now.

It’s likely some voters were thinking “yeah, sure” even as they checked “yes” on their ballots. We know there are exceptions, but politicians aren’t known for high batting averages as far as promises kept.

There are welcome signs, though, that folks in Montgomery are serious about keeping this one.

The Senate Republican Caucus has gone on record with a unanimous commitment to repay the money. As adamant as Bentley, Hubbard and Marsh have been about repayment, that commitment is going to be impossible from perception and political standpoints to renege on.

A bill containing one repayment proposal already has been pre-filed, and others apparently are in the works.

It’s easy to envision legislators, a year out from re-election bids, lining up to introduce bills that could be the No. 1 item, in bold-face type, on their respective campaigns.

However, in the Senate at least, there’s a push to follow the philosophy of football coaches Nick Saban and Bill Belichek and “speak with one voice.”

Marsh created a subcommittee to write a single bill setting up a procedure for repaying the money to the trust fund, hopefully with interest. We’ll be stunned if there’s not a similar push for unity in the House.

There seems to be a sense of urgency to get this done as quickly as possible. We hope there’s similar urgency, again sooner than later, to find a permanent solution to Alabama’s budgetary issues.

Another message delivered during the amendment campaign was that this cash swap was a temporary fix to get the state through a difficult stretch.

Anyone who’s dealt with a child’s skinned knees knows Band-Aids eventually get soggy and fall off.