Local legislators support Sept. 18 referendum

Published 3:57 pm Thursday, September 6, 2012

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Shelby County’s state legislators said they are in support of a Sept. 18 referendum which would allow the state to use money from the Alabama Trust Fund to support the state’s shrinking general fund budget.

Through the referendum, voters will be able to decide whether or not to allow the state to take money out of the Trust Fund for the next three years to prop up the general fund budget.

The Alabama Trust Fund is separate from the state’s education trust fund, and is composed of taxes collected from the state’s oil and gas production. Interest generated by the Alabama Trust Fund currently is transferred to the state’s general fund.

State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said the economic recession has caused Alabama’s general fund budget to shrink by about $100 million per year over the past several years, and said some government departments could face drastic budget cuts if the vote fails.

Ward said he is in favor of the plan because the state would only take out “about 2 percent” of the money in the trust fund to support the general fund.

If the vote fails, Ward said Alabama’s overcrowded prison system and Medicaid program will “take the brunt of the hit.”

State Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, said she has already cast an absentee ballot in favor of the plan, and said the Legislature is planning to repay the money it takes out of the Trust Fund.

“Nobody likes borrowing from a savings account, but we are in a crisis situation,” McClurkin said. “If we don’t want to see vital programs cut, we have to do something.

State Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana, said he supports it because he “has to,” and said the state has worked to cut its budget by 40 percent over the last few years.

“We’ve just got nowhere else to cut,” Hill said. “If this fails, we won’t have any choice but to cut from the prison system and Medicaid.”

Polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on Sept. 18. To find your polling location, voters should reference their voter registration cards or contact the Shelby County Board of Registrars at 669-3913.