- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Democrats in the Alabama House announced Tuesday they will try to pass a state lottery referendum, a 6 percent raise for public employees and a tobacco tax increase.

The lengthy agenda for the House Democratic Caucus includes some bills that have been around for years without passing, and caucus members conceded that some, like the tobacco tax, will be nearly impossible to pass in the Republican-dominated Legislature.

House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said nearly 15 years have passed since voters rejected Gov. Don Siegelman’s lottery plan, and it’s time for another statewide referendum. The Legislature would have to vote to put that issue on the November ballot, and Republican legislative leaders said that’s not going to happen.

Ford’s lottery legislation would fund college scholarships for A/B students and pay for public school security officers.

Rep. Joe Hubbard, D-Montgomery, is sponsoring a $1-a-pack increase in the tobacco tax. He said it could generate $230 million annually to help fund Medicaid and pay for a 6 percent cost-of-living raise for state employees and retired state employees.

The caucus is also pushing a 6 percent raise for education employees and retirees. That would be funded by ending private school tax credits provided by the Alabama Accountability Act and repealing the Rolling Reserve Act, which limits the growth in state education spending. Both of those laws were enacted by the Legislature’s Republican majority.

Other items in the Democrats‘ package include a $20 million bond issue to fund a workforce development training program and an additional $5 million for dual enrollment, which allows high school students to take career preparation courses at a community college while still in high school.

“It’s all about schools and it’s all about jobs,” Ford said.

Republican House Speaker Mike Hubbard of Auburn called the Democrats‘ plan “the Tax It, Spend It and Repeal It agenda.”

“The Democrats‘ proposal is nothing more than a road map back to the failed policies and shaky state finances of Alabama’s past,” the Republican leader said.

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