SB267, Gulf Coast Pork, and Grasshopper Priorities

The legislature should kill SB267 and a similar House bill, HB360.

This article describes Senator Bill Hightower’s SB267, a proposal to carve up the remaining $800 million of the $1 billion settlement Alabama is getting for economic damages from the BP oil spill settlement. Damages to local government, individuals, businesses, and the environment are provided in separate settlements, much of which has already been paid. And the state has also been awarded another $1.3 billion for environmental damage.

Hightower wants to use the state’s settlement to fund $650 or so of revenue bonds and then use about $400 of that to fund three road projects in the two Gulf Coast counties.

Last week Pork Barrel Bill revised the bill to share some of the pork with upstate counties ($130 million apiece for the two Gulf coast counties, about $3 million apiece for the 65 other counties).

The Hightower bill should be killed. Alabama is already making annual bond payments of nearly $5.5 billion and the legislature is looking at selling $800 million more in bonds to build new prisons.

It would be better to use the state’s BP money to repay the nearly $600 million borrowed from the Alabama Trust Fund since 2010 which was used to keep the general fund afloat (and thus avoid reform of the dysfunction budget process and our underfunded state retirement systems).

The eagerness of Hightower and his Gulf Coast colleagues to help themselves to state money is explainable, but the support of Republican Senate President Pro Tem Marsh and GOP senate majority leader Waggoner is troubling for those of us wanting a home in a fiscally conservative political party.

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