Local legislators express hesitation about governor’s budget plans

Published 8:36 pm Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sen. Cam Ward and Rep. Kurt Wallace both expressed hesitation about budget ideas Gov. Robert Bentley announced earlier this week.

One idea would change how the state budget is currently set up, where money is divided between schools and the general fund. The change would allow money set aside for schools to be spent on other state needs.

Ward acknowledged expected budget shortages but said cutting education is not the answer.

“I do not believe the solution is to take money out of schools,” Ward said.

Ward said reforms to Medicaid and cutting down on fraud in the program would be one way to save money as well as changes to the state prison system, particularly concerning first-time, non-violent offenders.

Wallace said Bentley has not yet brought plans before the Republican Party for consideration and he wanted more details about the plan.

“I am not for changing it for the sake of changing it,” Wallace said, adding that legislators should take a “serious hard look at earmarks” in the budget to save money.

Another proposal from Bentley would ask voters to approve borrowing up to $2 billion to fix roads and bridges.

Ward and Wallace both expressed hesitation at that idea.

“I’m very reluctant to support borrowing,” Ward said. “I think we need to get our financial house in order.”

Wallace shared a similar opinion.

“I want to hear how (Bentley) is going to pay it back. Until I know more of the details, I can’t say I would sign in for it,” Wallace said.

The Clanton Advertiser plans to publish a preview of the upcoming legislative session in the Sunday, Jan. 22 paper, which will include more on proposed bills and challenges that face lawmakers in 2012.