• 79°

Burning midnight oil for budgets

The Alabama Senate rose to the occasion this past week and passed both the General Fund and Education budgets.

The budgets are both balanced and do not take money from the Capital Improvement Trust Fund.

Two weeks ago I would not have given the General Fund budget much of a chance of passage, but as usual the Legislature moves into high gear during the last few days of a session.

Both budgets attracted favorable comments from Governor Bob Riley and much of the education community.

The Governor applauded the Legislature for not using money which has been earmarked for economic development to balance the budgets and he also expressed pleasure about the addition of $40 million awarded to the Alabama Reading Initiative Program.

Although the education budget was pared to match available revenue without adding new taxes, that was not so with the General Fund.

The General Fund is propped up with new revenue which comes mainly from a cigarette tax, a nursing home beds tax, and fee increases for those who use the court systems.

Still pending, for action on the final day of the session, are three additional revenue bills.

One would raise taxes on oil and natural gas pumped from Alabama wells, a second would impose state and local sales taxes on products bought by contractors to build government projects, and a third bill would delay by one day the pay period for state employees at the beginning of the next fiscal year.

If all of these tax measures are passed on the final day of the session, then the Medicaid program will be funded, no transfer of funds will be made from the State Highway Department, and all agencies of government will have as much or more revenue than they did during the last fiscal year.

The Senate met all night last Wednesday and met until midnight on Thursday to accomplish the above tasks.

Many of us in the Senate are hopeful that these actions will insure that the Governor does not call a special session of the Legislature any time soon.

Special sessions are usually expensive and generally not very productive.

I think we should save taxpayers money by doing our business in the regular sessions which come each year.

In addition to spending many hours on the Senate floor this week, I had the privilege of participating in two very moving ceremonies.

One was a Foster Care Awareness Blue Ribbon Rally at the Governor’s Mansion.

Donald and LaNalle Bradley of Greenville were honored as 2004 Foster/Adoptive Parents of the Year.

This fine family has my sincerest congratulations.

A second ceremony was held on the Floor of the House of Representatives where Governor Riley and others acknowledged the heroic efforts of some of Alabama’s finest police officers.

The awards were made on the basis of heroism in their respective communities during the past 12 months.

The Legislature does not meet this week and will have its final legislative day next Monday.

I will give you a complete wrap-up of the session as soon as we finish.

Senator Wendell Mitchell can

be reached at 334-242-7883, or by writing

to P.O. Box 225, Luverne, AL 36049.