Legislators talk dollars and cents

Money, more like the lack of it, was the main topic of a town hall meeting with local legislators Monday at Columbiana City Hall.

State senator Steven French and representatives Mike Hill and Cam Ward talked about the upcoming legislative session, budget cuts and President Obama’s proposed economic stimulus package.

“Montgomery has been spending like a bunch of drunken sailors,” French said. “I hope we have a sober, serious discussion that leads to reform.”

While Alabama enjoyed a 10 percent growth in revenue between 2004 and 2005 and a 6 percent return from 2006 to 2007, the state’s projected growth for this year is just 1.7 percent.

“We had a lot of extra money, not that it was wasted,” said Hill. “It went to good programs, but we spent it like we would have it forever.”

The state is bracing for a $1 billion loss in the state’s education trust fund next year. This year’s projected revenue growth rate is the lowest since 1982.

“That leaves us in a predicament,” Ward said. “The one thing that can help us is the federal stimulus.”

While Ward said he has mixed feelings about Obama’s proposed $825 billion package, he does think it will help move along special projects.

“We have to make sure this money goes into one-time projects,” Ward said. “We have to remember that this money won’t be there every year.”

Hill agreed that the federal dollars would help the state but didn’t know how much money would trickle down to Shelby County.

“There is something in that $825 billion for everybody,” said Hill. “Now, how much we get in Shelby County, is still in question.”

The South Chamber of Commerce, the Shelby County Reporter, Alabama Power Company, Shelby Baptist Medical Center and Bryant Bank sponsored the town hall meeting.