Legislators praise Sept. 18 vote passage

Published 11:46 am Wednesday, September 19, 2012

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Shelby County legislators praised Alabama voters for passing a Sept. 18 referendum to transfer $437 million from the Alabama Trust Fund to the state’s general fund over the next three years, and said they would like to see legislation passed to eventually repay the transfer.

The Legislators’ comments came a day after Alabamians voted overwhelmingly to pass the referendum, which will help the state avoid potentially heavy cuts to several Alabama agencies such as Medicaid, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety.

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.

State Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, said she was “delighted” after learning the results of the vote, and said she would like to see the Legislature pass a bill aimed at repaying the money taken out of the Trust Fund.

“We certainly want to pay that back. We don’t want to keep borrowing without repaying it,” McClurkin said. “I’m so glad we had the trust of the people to do what was right.”

State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, shared McClurkin’s thoughts, but said the Legislature still has “a lot of work” to do.

“We still have an enormous challenge ahead of us,” Ward said. “We’ve got to work on Medicaid and corrections, the consolidation of agencies and cutting our expenses down.”

Ward said the Legislature has already worked to cut general fund budget expenses by 40 percent over the past few years, and said the “federal government dictates a great deal” on how the state runs its Medicaid program.

“First and foremost, we need to pass a bill during the next session to repay that money,” Ward said.

State Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, whose district covers parts of Shelby County, said the vote’s passage will give legislators time to work on cutting expenditures in the state’s budget.

“The amendment will give the general fund time while we continue our focused and resolute efforts to bring government spending under control and restructure government programs for better outcomes and effectiveness,” Waggoner wrote in a prepared statement.