Gov. Robert Bentley signed legislation on Wednesday that will repay $437 million to a state savings account over 10 years.
Bentley and other state officials vowed to repay the money leading up to the Sept. 18 referendum, when people voted overwhelmingly to support transferring the money from the Alabama Trust Fund to balance the General Fund budget and avoid cuts to Medicaid and other non-education functions of state government. The original legislation did not require the state to repay the money, which is being borrowed over three years.
“We made a commitment to the voters that the Alabama Trust Fund would be repaid, and we are fulfilling that commitment,” Bentley said.
Other Republican officials have said it is fiscally responsible to repay the fund.
House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, had said the bill would be the first passed and sent to Bentley for his signature. The Republican-led Legislature succeeded in sending it to Bentley first.
But Democrats criticized Republicans for being insincere for pushing through the bill and for not including a provision in the original legislation to repay the money. They said Republicans are pandering to constituents.
Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, said he introduced his proposal before the Sept. 18 referendum and said the proposal that lawmakers passed included an automatic payback provision to ensure there is money being transferred annually to repay the trust fund.
Lawmakers must begin repaying the money by Sept. 30, 2014, and the legislation requires the money to be paid back by Sept. 30, 2026.
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen