After the legislature settled on transferring $80 million from the Education Trust Fund to the General Fund, some in the education community were confused by statements of support for that decision coming from Alabama’s State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Tommy Bice.
Those statements of support came via Twitter and in an interview with a Birmingham television station.
While it may not be evident from some current messaging conf comm report has positive potential for k-12 urge legislators to support!!
— Tommy Bice (@tbice) September 15, 2015
While the interview gave more context than the tweet, it appeared there might be more to the story.
So I asked Bice why he supported the transfer.
Here’s what Bice had to say this morning in an e-mail response to the question of why he supported the transfer:
To the question posed to me earlier today as to why I supported the transfer of $80 million to help the General Fund, context is everything. First, the plan I originally supported and the one I support today contains multiple parts that lead to a better funded ETF [Education Trust Fund] overall. At the end of the day, that is what we have albeit with an $80M transfer. To consider any monetary transfer without the prior passed revenue measures to use as back-fill along with an adjusted rolling reserve account would have not been supported by me, nor other education advocates.
As you are aware, the education community was asked and willingly came to the table to agree upon some measures to help a strapped General Fund during this Second Special Session. The original proposals handled by Rep. Poole and passed by the House had a one-time $50M going to the General Fund from the Budget Stabilization as part of some of the rolling reserve modifications and a transfer of ALL of our portion of Use Tax (75%) being redistributed to the General Fund ALONG WITH the transfer of General Fund obligations currently being funded in the ETF.
When the Senate amended the two bills to take $100M from education, ALL of our Use Tax and NONE of the General Fund obligations, we knew that some compromising had to be done since those terms were unacceptable to Rep. Poole, the education community, other public education supporters in the legislature and myself. Allowing modifications to the Rolling Reserve and amending Use Tax distributions, while not ideal, allows for education to maintain its budgetary autonomy while also be a good Samaritan for the state’s General Fund.
Going forward, with these two bills working together, and with the availability of back-fill revenue measures passed during the first Special Session to initially help to recoup some of the $80M redistributed to the General Fund, K-12 is in a position to recover lost resources as well as garner the benefits of any positive financial returns in the future. While things at this point look promising and lost revenues for the ETF we believe kept to a minimum, at this juncture it would not be prudent for the State Department of Education to speculate on hard numbers as this two-bill package, other revenue raising measures and a General Fund have not yet been transmitted or signed by the Governor.
Though at this moment, the details are still being sorted out, we hope to break down HB29 and HB30 and how exactly education dollars could be affected. Stay tuned.