Lawmakers approve $1.25 billion school bond issue

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Alabama State House
Photo Credit: AL House Republicans

Alabama lawmakers on Thursday approved a $1.25 billion bond issue for school construction in the largest capital improvement project in more than a decade.

The House of Representatives voted 68-5 for the bond issue to fund capital improvement projects at public schools, universities and two-year colleges. The bill now goes to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature.

The Republican governor proposed the bond issue in her State of the State address earlier this year.

The bond issue would be the largest through the Public School and College Authority since 2007, when lawmakers approved a $1.07 billion bond issue at the urging of then-Gov. Bob Riley.

Rep. Bill Poole, the chairman of the House education, said each school system would get a minimum of $400,000 and then additional money based on school system size and the state’s school funding formula.

House members also approved a pared down $7.2 billion education budget. The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate. The Education Trust Fund is fueled by sales and income tax collections, two revenue streams expected to be heavily affected by coronavirus-related business closures.

The House-passed spending plan is about $91 million over current funding levels but more than $300 million less than what Gov. Kay Ivey had proposed before the economic downturn. The spending plan skips a 3% pay raise lawmakers had originally hoped to give teachers and public school employees next year.

Republican Rep. Andrew Sorrell cast the lone vote against the education budget. Sorrell said he could not in “good conscience” vote for any spending increases because he fears the economic downtown will last longer.

Alabama lawmakers this week returned to Montgomery after a more than month-long break because of the coronavirus outbreak.

House Democrats have largely been absent from Montgomery. House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels said this week that he believed it was irresponsible to pass budgets, before they have a better projection on the impact of the virus outbreak on tax collections.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.