BRADENTON, Fla. — Facing a 25% shortfall in the general fund, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said during his state of the state address Tuesday night that he would not raise taxes.
Bentley, a Republican, said the state must manage money wisely and prioritize expenditures to pass balanced budgets.
“We know what the federal government would do. They would print more money, borrow against our children’s future and drive up our national debt,” he said. “That won’t ever happen in Alabama. The people of this state expect us to live within our means, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Bentley said the process of reducing state government in size and scope has begun.
He also recognized that funding is needed for infrastructure improvements to address deteriorating roads and bridges.
“I have been fortunate this year to spend time in communities across our state,” he said. “A concern I have heard over and over is the need for better roads and bridges to lead to greater economic opportunities and to improve their quality of life for all our citizens.”
The state has an obligation to preserve roads and fix bridges, he added.
The governor said he would propose a transportation financing plan using grant anticipation revenue vehicle bonds, and would work with local leaders to identify roads and bridges that need repair.
“With the use of Garvee bonds we can achieve this without raising taxes or taking money from our state savings account, he said. Garvees “can be issued as needs are identified.”
Bentley did not say how much in bonds he would propose. In speeches around the state before the opening of Tuesday’s annual legislative session, Bentley said that he would consider $2 billion of Garvee bonds.
The governor did not address Jefferson County’s bankruptcy or whether he would support a legislative effort to provide the state’s largest county with fiscal relief.
On Wednesday, Bentley released his proposed the 2013 budget, which is comprised of two main components funded from different revenue sources that have suffered from precipitous decline in the recession and slow recovery.
The general fund supports state agencies while the education trust fund is for public schools and higher education.
Bentley proposed a $1.4 billion general fund budget, down from the current $1.7 billion budget.
He also proposed a $5.44 billion budget for education, approximately 3% less than the current budget.
The governor’s plan is dependent on transferring $185 million in Medicaid costs for children to the education budget, as well as taking $45 million from education and putting it into the general fund.
The idea of requiring the education budget to assume children’s Medicaid costs received immediate push-back from some GOP leaders.
The Legislature is in session through mid-May.