MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama lawmakers spent the majority of the 2015 legislative session turning over every legislative cushion in the House in hopes of finding an elusive sum of money to solve a looming budget gap for the next fiscal year.
Lawmakers considered raising taxes, shifting funds and even legalizing gambling. But nothing stuck, and lawmakers passed a budget with massive cuts that Gov. Robert Bentley immediately vetoed while promising to call the Legislature back for a special session later this summer.
One possible solution nobody could vote on was a possible settlement between Alabama and BP over the 2010 oil spill.
On Thursday morning, Bentley and Attorney General Luther Strange announced a $2.3 billion settlement after a five-year legal battle following the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Under the terms of the settlement, $1.3 billion would be used for environmental restoration over the next 15 years, while the other $1 billion would be dispersed to the state’s cash-strapped general fund over the next 18 years.
However, Bentley was quick to note that the annual allotment would not be enough to fix a looming shortfall of around $200 million for 2016, nor would it be anywhere near the $400 million he’s asking lawmakers to come up with when he calls them back for the inevitable special session.
“This will not solve the problem,” Bentley said. “Does it help some? Yes, absolutely. Any time you can get that amount of money it will help. But we actually do not know yet when that money will come.”
Dividing the $1 billion for the general fund equally over the next 18 years could create around $55.5 million in revenue not anticipated when lawmakers created the austere budget. Asked if the new money could deter lawmakers from raising taxes, Bentley said it shouldn’t. He said the state needs to long-term solution to how it budgets.
“I’m always afraid that anyone can make the excuse, to take some money that’s given to you in one-time fashion and not solve the real problems of our state,” he said.
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