By William C. Singleton III
At a recent Homewood Chamber of Commerce luncheon, State Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, gave an optimistic report of the state’s finances, saying the Education Trust Fund is starting to rebound.
The Trust Fund, which funds K-12 public education, two-year colleges and state universities, is projected to accumulate about $5.4 billion for the 2013 fiscal year.
While that’s lower than the $6.6 billion of 2008, state lawmakers expect the Trust Fund to reach $6 billion for fiscal year 2014, DeMarco said.
“The education budget is actually heading in the right direction for the first time since 2008,” he told about 70 people at the chamber luncheon at Samford University.
DeMarco attributes the economic optimism to increasing sales and corporate tax revenues and said he expects those revenues to continue rising as the state does more in the way of economic development.
DeMarco also said while unemployment rates are still high, they’ve been dipping since 2009, when the rate reached 10.6 percent. In 2010, the rate was 9.2 percent but dropped to 8.8 percent in 2011.
As of August 2012, the rate was 8.5 percent. The unemployment rate was 3.4 percent in 2006, its lowest in 10 years.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but at least it’s trending in the right direction,” DeMarco said.
DeMarco, who represents Homewood, Hoover, Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills, also encouraged residents to vote on the 11 constitutional amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The amendments involve a range of issues from reissuing bonds for economic development to dedicating state funds to buy more land for public use. Amendment 4 seeks to repeal antiquated, illegal and racially discriminatory laws from the state Constitution.
“It was tried several years ago, and it failed because it became an issue about whether that would allow the opportunity to raise taxes,” DeMarco said. “This doesn’t do that. It simply repeals the school segregation language. It repeals the poll tax provisions from the Constitution. Obviously, it’s already illegal. This just removes the actual language from the Constitution.”
DeMarco said he favors reforming the Alabama Constitution amendment by amendment rather than a total overhaul of the massive document.
“I think this is the best way to do constitutional reform, because it allows the public to have more of a look at those sections as opposed to trying to do it all at once,” he said. “Then I think it would all fail if we did it that way.”