Alabama Senate panel advances bill to allot $1 billion for roads, bridges

| Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Highway spending in Alabama would get a $1 billion boost, if an effort making its way through the state’s Senate becomes law.

The Senate Finance and Taxation Committee voted 11-1 to advance a proposed amendment to the Alabama Constitution to the full Senate that would reroute money from a state savings account for roads and bridges.

Action at the statehouse is spurred by lawmakers looking for ways to cope with an overall state budget gap of $1.1 billion for fiscal year 2009.

Sponsored by Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, the measure – SB279 – would remove $100 million annually for 10 years from the Alabama Trust Fund. The fund has $3 billion accumulated from natural gas wells drilled in state-owned waters along the Alabama coast.

The Legislature would not be required to pay back the money.

Barron said his legislation and the money that Alabama will receive from the federal economic stimulus plan will complement each other. “It’s about Alabama doing our part to stimulate the economy in Alabama,” Barron told The Daily Sentinel.

The state would divide $25 million annually among its 67 counties and their cities for road and bridge work. Another $75 million each year would be routed to the Alabama Department of Transportation.

Critics of the plan question whether lawmakers should once again put their hands into the trust fund. The Legislature previously has tapped the fund to lure new industries and to finance a rainy day fund to benefit education.

To become law, voters would make the final decision on the matter in 2010. If approved, the money would be allocated in 2011.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Alabama in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.

 

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