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Governor, Legislature wrangle with education bill

By Staff
JONATHAN McELVY
Special to The Advance
The future of school funding and a governor are at stake after the Alabama Legislature convened Wednesday for its fourth special session of the year and failed to reach a resolution to an ongoing funding crisis for education by Friday.
Earlier this year, the Alabama Education Trust Fund was cut $266 million because projected state revenues fell short. Now, legislators are being asked to find $160 million for the education budget, or else.
In essence, that has been the tone from political leaders across the state leading up to this session, which begins with a speech from Siegelman at 6:30 p.m. and a Republican response around 7 p.m. Each special session costs the state between $400,000 and $500,000.
Words have not been kind for the past two weeks. Siegelman says the business community is not paying its fair share of taxes. State Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, has backed the governor.
Bill O'Connor, president of the Business Council of Alabama, says state leaders have taken the wrong path toward raising education money.
At the heart of the squabble between Siegelman and the business community is a plan to close corporate "loopholes." Siegelman wants to generate $100 million by increasing the state's business privilege tax, a tax on net worth rather than profits.
State Sen. Bill Armistead, R-Columbiana, the ranking Republican in the Alabama Senate, says Siegelman's plan is flawed.
Michael Ciamarra is a former policy advisor for Gov. Fob James. Ciamarra says a solution to education funding may not be all Siegelman faces.
Sanders doesn't think this session encompasses the political future of Siegelman.
Sanders said Siegelman's biggest accomplishment has been to earn a consensus that education funding must be fixed.
Ciamarra said that is a strategy Siegelman has calculated toward his re-election as governor.
Among the governor's proposals and a 6-point plan presented by business leaders, Sanders thinks something will get done.