Bentley: dramatic changes coming for state gov't

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM (WBRC) - Governor Robert Bentley says dramatic changes are coming for state government.

Bentley addressed members of the Public Affairs and Research Council of Alabama in Birmingham Friday. The governor says the state is facing tough economic times.

"It's the most catastrophic budgetary time we've ever had in Alabama in the last 100 years," Bentley said.

Gov. Bentley says tax collections were up for January, but he will wait until March to decide if the proration will have to be declared for the education budget. Just in case, Birmingham schools are getting ready.

"In Birmingham we have been planning. We were put on notice at the end of the fiscal year. We have been planning," Craig Witherspoon, Birmingham School Superintendent said.

There are hopes the education budget will not have to be cut, but there is no hope for the general fund budget. The state finance director told PARCA members the money problems will change how state government is run.

"We've got too big of a budget hole to make up with significant changes in the way we operate state government," Dave Perry, Finance Director said.

Legislative leaders say cutting employees and making those employees pay more for benefits will all have to be considered.

"We've got to streamline and be more efficient with budgetary problems we have now. We have no choice. This is an opportunity for us," Sen. Del Marsh, Senate Pro Tem said.

Marsh and House Speaker Mike Hubbard want to change the Statehouse. That means cutting off lobbyist access to lawmakers. The legislative leaders plan to shut doors to lawmaker's offices.

"We promised we were going to change the culture of Montgomery. We weren't putting out hyperbole. We meant it and we are going to do it," Hubbard said.

Both legislative leaders say the public will not be denied access. They believe the new restrictions will grant greater access to public over the lobbyists.

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