Alabama Senate Dems pursue $1 billion for roads, bridges

| 12/21/2009

Highway spending in Alabama could be in line for a $1 billion boost, if Democrats in the Alabama Senate get their way.

Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, is leading the charge among members of the Senate Democratic Caucus for a proposed amendment to the Alabama Constitution that would reroute money from a state savings account for roads and bridges.

This isn’t Barron’s first crack at removing $100 million annually for 10 years from the Alabama Trust Fund. The fund has about $2.6 billion accumulated from natural gas wells drilled in state-owned waters along the Alabama coast.

Barron tried to get the legislation through the statehouse during the 2009 regular session, but he failed by two votes to get the bill out of the Senate. The vote was largely along party lines.

Supporters say much has changed since then, which should benefit prospects of the bill’s passage. They cite growing unemployment in the state and some vacant Senate seats being filled.

Also pointed out is that after federal stimulus money runs dry, the state will still have a long list of road and bridge projects that will need attention.

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 November 2010. If approved, the money would be allocated in 2011.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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