Governor: this gives us a little breathing room and that's all - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Governor Robert Bentley on Trust Fund vote: This gives us a little breathing room and that's all

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MONTGOMERY - AL -

Voters said "yes" to moving 437 million dollars from the Alabama Trust Fund to the general fund to prevent prison and healthcare cuts. But the governor and other state leaders say it doesn't solve all the state's financial problems.

"Corrections is one of those jobs you never sleep good at night. You're always worried about your employees. You're always concerned about creating an environment that will allow someone to rehabilitate," said Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas.

But Tuesday night, Thomas didn't worry about returning to work to lay off employees or release prisoners. His sole concern is now streamlining the entire department to save 16 million dollars.

"It's a sense of relief and it helps us plan better for the upcoming fiscal year," he said.

When more than 60 percent of voters marked "yes" on their ballots, it was with the promise of replenishing the trust fund.

Governor Robert Bentley is hoping to replace the 437 million dollars through part of the use tax and internet sales tax, as well as settlement money from lawsuits.

"Not only are we going to collect those things I've mentioned, but we're going to try to continue to save more dollars," said Governor Bentley.

He envisions saving a few million a year by offering early retirement to state employees and teachers. But action must come from the legislature to turn his ideas into solutions.

"Many people were saying there's no way to pay it back. I know they have to trust us. But we'll have legislation that I believe will be passed early on that will require this be paid back," said the governor.

But Montgomery leaders acknowledge that doesn't solve the entire problem. More money will still have to be found somewhere else for the general fund.

"We are going to educate and work with the legislature," said Thomas.

Bentley hopes to release more details about the early retirement plan as soon as next week.

 

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