Hubbard: money will be repaidPublished 12:06pm Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Alabama Representative and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard assured a crowd at First Baptist Church of Alexander City yesterday that money taken from the Alabama Trust Fund would be repaid if voters choose to allow it to be used for the ailing General Fund.Carleton
Hubbard was the keynote speaker at the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly luncheon and discussed the upcoming Sept. 18 amendment vote and other issues facing the legislature.
“It’s a complicated issue, and a lot of folks don’t understand exactly what it is,” Hubbard said. “If we don’t get (Medicaid) under control, it is actually going to consume the entire state of Alabama. We are absolutely committed to changing that … we are committed to coming up with a plan that Alabama can afford.”
Hubbard said they are already making steps in the right direction as far as finances, but they need more time to continue to develop a General Fund budget that will accommodate costs and to reform Medicaid.
“We have what’s called a rainy day fund for the Education Trust Fund that’s funded out of the Alabama Trust Fund, which is the oil and gas revenues,” Hubbard said. “It’s sitting there … and we’re asking voters … to allow us to take that money that’s earmarked to help education – we don’t need the help right now – to move it to the General Fund to help us over a three-year period keep our head above water as we continue to make these reforms, these changes. That’s it. That’s what we’re asking the voters to do.”
Hubbard emphasized that the money is to be repaid, and if the amendment doesn’t pass, many areas of state government will be cut or eliminated to solve the budget problem.
“I’m supporting (the amendment) – I would not have supported it had we not made provisions to solve the problem long term, but we have,” Hubbard said. “And this has been lost in the communication somehow: we have already moved 25 percent of use taxes from the Education Trust Fund to the General Fund, 75 percent of Internet sales tax to the General Fund … That’s the first time we have moved any growth revenues to the General Fund in decades … so we’ve obviously taken steps to solve the problem long term.
“We’re absolutely committed to paying it back, which has never really been a question,” Hubbard said. “But if (the amendment) fails, it’s really going to be some tough choices.”
Hubbard explained measures the legislature has taken since gaining a Republican majority as far as finances and other reforms.
“We passed every one of the ‘handshake with Alabama’ bills,” Hubbard said. “We did it within the first 10 legislative days of that session.”
The Republican handshake with Alabama was a set of goals the new legislation announced in 2010 as a promise to Alabama of what they planned to do with Republican control
“Everything we said we were going to do, we have done – and then some,” Hubbard said. “I promise you, that is not going to stop.”
Hubbard said some of those promises kept included ethic laws reform, tort reform, meaningful budget reform and tenure reform.
“(Tenure reform) is something we couldn’t even have dreamed of bringing up in a committee under the previous leadership,” Hubbard said. “There’s no way it could have even been considered – not even voted down, because we couldn’t even bring it up. Well, we passed it.”
Hubbard explained many of the reforms that had made have affected Alabama, including:
- making it easier to fire teachers who don’t do their jobs
- changing the formula for the retirement systems of Alabama, ensuring the program will not run out of money and keeping it an ongoing, viable entity
- tort reform, including measures to promote businesses in the private sector and the economy
“When we started in the majority, and then in particular the last session, we said the number one issue we’re going to tackle is … (concentrating) on jobs and the economy,” Hubbard said. “If you look at the make-up of the Alabama House and Senate right now, there is not doubt that you have a conservative … pro-business, pro-private sector majority.
One of the top issues in the next session, Hubbard said, will be efficiency in the government, eliminating unnecessary jobs, cutting excessive budgets and consolidating overlapping responsibilities.
Hubbard said he hoped people at the luncheon realized what the legislature has done in the session.
“Montgomery is operating differently than it has in decades,” Hubbard said. “We have a leadership team in place and members of the House and the Senate in the majority who are committed to doing what’s in the best interest of the private sector … I’m proud of what we’ve done in just two years.”