Thursday, February 7th, 2013
House Democrats announced today their legislative agenda to put Alabama “back on track” in 2013 by addressing critical needs in job security, education, Medicaid, and the Alabama Trust Fund.
Putting the Trust Fund and Medicaid Back on Track
House Democrats are proposing legislation that will increase the tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products by $1. The increase is expected to generate $227 million annually in new revenue. The bill, if passed in a statewide referendum vote, will require all funds from the tax be allocated to the Alabama Trust Fund until the $437 million borrowed from the constitutional amendment passed last year is paid back in full with interest. The Trust Fund must be paid back within six years. After the Trust Fund has been paid back, all revenue generated from the tax would be appropriated to the General Fund Budget exclusively for Alabama’s Medicaid Program.
Putting Job Creation Back on Track
Alabama’s unemployment rate is still over 7 percent, with more than 152,000 Alabamians reporting they are out of work. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and are responsible for 84 percent of the jobs in Alabama.
House Democrats are proposing a job creation bill that supports small businesses by creating a tax credit that will be paid for by repealing a tax loophole that is currently only offered to multinational corporations.
Getting Education Back on Track
House Democrats are introducing a series of bills designed to address several needs in our public schools.
Pay Raise for Educators
House Democrats are sponsoring legislation that will provide a 10 percent cost-of-living pay increase for teachers and support personnel over the next three years. The bill would offer a 5 percent raise during the first year, followed by a 2.5 percent raise in the second and third years.
Democrats are also sponsoring legislation that will give a 10 percent pay increase to state employees and education and state retirees.
School Resource Officers
School safety must be a priority in 2013. The best way we can increase school safety is to put resource officer in each of Alabama’s 1,475 public schools.
The Legislative Fiscal Office estimates that it would cost $50 million annually to hire, train, and equip a resource officer in each of Alabama’s public schools. House Democrats are proposing legislation that will provide half of the funding for those costs to any public school that wants to hire a resource office. The expense, estimated to cost $25 million annually, would be paid for by a state lottery.
A state lottery can raise $250 million annually for our children’s education. The lottery bill proposed by House Democrats will allocate the revenue generated from the lottery for three purposes:
· To increase the per diem given to teachers for classroom supplies from $300 to $1,000
· To provide the $25 million needed each year to fund the resource officer program
· To provide scholarships to A/B Honor Roll Students for tuition and fees at any Alabama university, college, or technical school.
Our state government made a commitment to the PACT participants that we would provide their children with an education. Today, Democrats are keeping that promise.
House Democrats are proposing legislation that would take 84 percent of the funds in the PACT program and distribute them to Alabama’s colleges and universities based on the percentage of PACT students they admit on average. In exchange for this money for their endowments, the schools would be required to waive all tuition and fees for PACT students.
PACT participants will not notify the school that they are a PACT participant until after they have been accepted, and the schools cannot ask applicants if they are PACT participants. The schools also will be prohibited from dismissing or expelling PACT participants for any reason other than the standard reasons for dismissing or expelling a student.
The remaining 16 percent of funds left in the account would used to provide payments for students who go to private or out-of-state schools, for refunds to participants who request a refund, and to cover administrative costs.
Closing Corporate Tax Loopholes
House Democrats are sponsoring a series of bills that would raise a minimum of $58 million annually for Alabama’s schools by closing certain corporate tax loopholes that allow multinational corporations like ExxonMobil to pay little or no state income taxes. It is unfair that small business owners in Alabama have to pay these taxes while their multinational competitors are allowed to avoid them. House Democrats will level the playing field and bring desperately needed revenue to the Education Trust Fund.