UA in the News: May 18, 2012
Alabama governor stands clear as Jefferson County’s cash drains
Bloomberg News – May 17
Robert Bentley’s legacy as governor of Alabama may be his inability to force a solution to the bankruptcy of state’s most populous county. The Alabama Legislature’s annual session ended on May 16 without House action on a bill to help close a budget shortfall facing Jefferson County, which six months ago filed a $4.2 billion municipal bankruptcy, the biggest in the U.S. Bentley, 69, stayed out of the public debate on the measure to allow the county to raise taxes. Robert Bentley, governor of Alabama. The Legislature’s failure to act reflects poorly on the first-term Republican governor’s leadership, said William Stewart, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The state’s reputation with businesses and the bond market is suffering because the governor and lawmakers aren’t helping the county, he said. “It taints his legacy,” Stewart said in a phone interview. “Jefferson is the most important county economically in the state. He didn’t come in and knock heads together and say, ‘you have to come up with a solution because it’s hurting the state as a whole.’” The county of 660,000, home to Birmingham, already has missed a $15 million general-obligation bond payment and will miss another payment in October, said county bankruptcy attorney Kenneth Klee in a public meeting yesterday in Birmingham. County officials have dismissed 800 employees and reduced services. They say they need a state law to allow them to raise taxes to close a $40 million shortfall.
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