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

| 3/12/2009

A bill in the Alabama Senate has come up short of the support needed to give highway spending in the state a $1 billion boost.

The Senate voted 19-11 in favor of a proposed amendment to the Alabama Constitution, which would reroute money from a state savings account for roads and bridges. However, that was two votes shy of the 21 needed in the Senate to pass a constitutional amendment.

Sponsored by Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, the measure – SB279 – sought to 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 have been required to pay back the money.

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

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

Barron said he plans to reintroduce the bill and make another push for its passage before the session ends in May.

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 questioned 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

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