The Alabama Legislature convened on Tuesday for the first day of the 2016 session. As was the case last year, the legislature will face the daunting task of passing a general fund budget that seems to never get any better. Current forecasts predict a $200 million dollar hole that must be fixed in the general fund. Governor Bentley has proposed moving $181 million from the ETF to the General Fund to plug the hole, but as of now the plan appears to be receiving a cold reception in the legislature. House Ways and Means Chairman Steve Clouse R-Ozark calls the Governor’s plan a nonstarter.
The education trust fund on the other hand is in very good shape with the Legislative Fiscal Office forecasting $6.3 billion available. Governor Bentley requested a 2% pay raise for teachers who have not had a cost-of-living raise in many years.
Governor Bentley Proposes $800 Million Prison Bond
During his state of the state address Tuesday night Governor Bentley called for the building of super prisons to replace the state’s outdated facilities. Governor Bentley believes the state could save enough in annual repairs on old prisons to pay the bond for the new construction. The prison system accounts for 23% percent of the general fund budget and will continue to rise at a much greater rate than growth in the General Fund. A large-scale prison construction program would be a boost to the concrete industry.
Gas and Diesel Tax Bill on the Way
Representative Mac McCutcheon will likely introduce legislation this week to increase the gas and diesel tax in the state. Alabama taxes diesel at $.18 per gallon. Representative McCutcheon’s proposal will increase the diesel tax by $.12 per gallon to $.30. The $.30 would bring Alabama to the national average on diesel. The increased tax would general around $300 million dollars for the state, counties, and cities.
Concrete Truck Weight Bills Introduced
Senator Gerald Dial and Representative Barry Moore have introduced legislation to increase allowable concrete truck weights on state routes. The legislation would allow a four-axle ready mix truck to weigh 75,000 pounds plus 10% scale tolerance without having to meet the 20,000 pounds plus 10% axle requirement. Members who added a 4th axle would be able to haul much larger loads than currently seen across the state. The legislation will not affect ready mix producers who wish to continue running a three axle truck. These vehicles will continue to be able to haul 60,000 pounds plus 10% tolerance without having to meet the 20,000 pounds plus 10% tolerance on any axle. The Senate Bill is SB77 and the House Bill is HB88.