Former state Sen. John Rice of Auburn has filed suit in an effort to block next year’s $1.68 billion General Fund budget from taking effect. John claims that the budget violates Alabama law which requires that state budgets be balanced. It’s alleged in the complaint that “the Alabama constitution prohibits this reckless and irresponsible budget.” The lawsuit, which was filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court, was assigned to Judge Truman Hobbs. At press time, no hearing had been set by the court.
The lawsuit asks the court to block state officials named in the suit, Gov. Robert Bentley, state Finance Director Marquita Davis and state comptroller Thomas White, from spending money under the General Fund for the 2013 fiscal year, which starts October 1st. Lawmakers passed the budget in May, counting on voters on September 18th to approve an amendment to the state constitution. We discussed that at length in an earlier section of the Report. The amendment would transfer to the General Fund $145.8 million in each of the next three fiscal years from the Alabama Trust Fund.
Montgomery lawyer Mark Montiel, a former circuit judge and also a former legal advisor to Gov. Guy Hunt, is representing John in this suit. Mark said in an interview that state law requires a state budget’s estimated revenues and spending to match up at the time the budget is passed. He claims that counting on revenues not yet approved by voters, revenues that might not be approved by voters, violates the law. Mark said that the law in Alabama “… requires that the budget, when passed, be balanced.”
Mark said he hoped Gov. Bentley would call legislators into special session to pass a new General Fund budget. But the Governor’s press secretary, Jennifer Ardis, in reply, had this to say:
The lawsuit has no merit. Gov. Bentley is working to save taxpayer dollars. This lawsuit will only waste taxpayer dollars.
While this lawsuit came as a surprise, it will certainly draw attention to the September 18th Amendment vote. That will have an effect one way or the other on potential voters.
Sources: Associated Press and Birmingham News
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