GOP introduces budget bill, mayoral summit and Rotary honor flight

May 6, 2015

Alabama House of Representatives

Republican lawmakers in Alabama’s House of Representatives have a new proposal to end the state's budget crisis.

Yesterday, House leaders announced a plan to fix the General Fund budget shortfall through a combination of cost-cutting, consolidation and new taxes. They plan to raise taxes on cigarettes and car rentals, cap paid state employee holidays and transfer revenue from the Education Trust Fund to the General Fund.

The proposal would raise nearly $200 million in new revenue. That’s less than half the $541 million Gov. Robert Bentley wants to raise.

Lawmakers are also urging Bentley to strike an agreement with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians for additional revenue in exchange for expanded or exclusive rights to run bingo games or, potentially, other forms of gambling in the state.

Bentley praised Republicans for agreeing about the need for new taxes, but says the plan they proposed isn't enough to prevent cuts to a wide range of state agencies.

Mayors from several Alabama cities are planning for the future following a summit this week.

The meeting in Huntsville focused on economic development and how those mayors plan to bring new jobs into the state.

Mike Schmitz is the mayor of Dothan. He says the summit allows them to share ideas on how to improve their cities.

“It's really an opportunity for mayors to sit down and talk about issues that each one of us is facing and hopefully learn from each other so we can do better.”

Schmitz says they also discussed possible budget cuts from the state and how they might handle those. The summit included mayors from Huntsville, Mobile, Dothan, Tuscaloosa and Montgomery.

Up to eighty veterans of World War two and the Korean War will be making a unique trip from Tuscaloosa today.

The local Rotary Club is sponsoring what’s called an honor flight. It’s an eighty thousand dollar trip for veterans to visit Washington, D.C. and see their war memorials. The event is paid for by private donations to thank the veterans for their service. Once their plane arrives in Baltimore, the vets will be bused to the memorials for World War Two, Korea, and Vietnam.

Jordan Plaster is with the Tuscaloosa Rotary Club. He says it’s great to see the public interact with the veterans.

“Because you get to see the veterans be greeted by tourists from all over the country, and they come up and thank the veterans for their service to our country. And it’s so much fun to just sit back and watch that.”

Previous Tuscaloosa honor flights have carried over four hundred veterans to Washington, D.C. Plaster hopes his group breaks five hundred with this trip

Alabama’s two-year college system will soon be governed by its own state board.

Yesterday, lawmakers gave final approval to legislation removing the community college system from the oversight of the state Board of Education and giving it a new board appointed by the governor.

Legislators voted to go along with a change originally proposed by Gov. Robert Bentley, stating that all the governor’s appointments to the board had to be confirmed by the Alabama Senate.

The Alabama Board of Education has fought the legislation at every turn. Back in March, that board passed a unanimous resolution in opposition of a new two-year college board.

Supporters say a board made up of industry and business leaders would help focus the two year colleges' mission of worker training and workforce development.