Gov. Robert Bentley could call his first special session in November to address ongoing financial issues in the state’s largest county.
Officials in Jefferson County, which is anchored by Birmingham, are trying to solve an ongoing debt crisis stemming from more than $3 billion in outstanding loans for the county’s sewer system. They are trying to avoid filing bankruptcy and announced last week they had reached a proposed agreement with the lending companies.
The Legislature would need to authorize some of the proposed arrangements.
Bentley said on Monday that there must be a consensus before he calls lawmakers in for a special session.
“We don’t want to call a special session and argue for the 10 or 12 days we have available,” he said.
Bentley said he would be communicating with the county commissioners and the county’s legislative delegation, which is the largest in the state and often has trouble reaching a consensus.
The governor was hopeful they could reach an agreement this week, but as of Monday morning they had not scheduled any meetings.
“We’ve come so far. We can’t let this slip by without trying to resolve this issue,” Bentley said.
Once they reach an agreement, Bentley said those local bills would need to be advertised for four weeks.
Bentley said that the county is able, with the state as a partner, to receive a lower interest rate.
He said they are looking at how to ensure that Alabama taxpayers are not left to foot the bill if Jefferson County stumbles again and cannot pay the debt. The debt, the governor said, would be paid through money raised in Jefferson County.
“We’re not going to ask the taxpayers of the rest of the state to step up and pay the debts of Jefferson County,” said Bentley, a Tuscaloosa Republican.
Political observers have speculated for months about the possibility of Bentley calling a special session to address issues in Jefferson County. If Bentley calls a special session, it would not be the first called by a governor to address financial issues in Jefferson County.
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen