ORLANDO, Fla. -- Gov. Guy Hunt has taken the unprecedented step of vetoing Alabama's general fund budget for fiscal 1992 and has vowed to subject education spending to the line-item veto.
In rejecting the $806 million general fund budget, Gov. Hunt said he would not seek more money overall. His aim, he said, was to spur law-markets to restore funding for prisons, law enforcement, mental health, and emergency management in a special legislative session planned for next month.
He said he would use the line-item veto -- which has never before been employed with Alabama lawmakers out of session -- to throw out part of the state's $2.65 billion education budget. The two budgets, passed by the Legislature last month, are separate entities under state law. Alabama's 1992 fiscal year begins Oct. 1991.
"I know we are breaking new ground here," said Gov. Hunt in announcing the vetoes last Thursday evening. "No governor in Alabama has ever made a line-item veto [out of session] and I cannot remember the last time a budget was vetoed outright," he added. "But then again, I doubt that any governor has faced budgets like these."
In calling for a five-day special session on the general-fund budget to begin Sept. 9, Gov. Hunt pointedly avoided calling for any tax increases, saying that consideration of any new revenue increases should be postponed until tax reform is considered in the 1992 regular session.
Speaking of the general fund budget, the Alabama governor said he will ask that $15.2 million be restored to prevent the closing of a prison and several mental health facilities.
He also said he will request that $4.5 million be added to the Department of Public Safety's budget, forestalling cutbacks in state trooper operations.
Addressing the education budget, Gov. Hunt said Thursday that he intends to cut school spending by $25 million to avoid "proration" or cutbacks in school funding after Oct. 1. About $21 million of his planned reductions would come from the elimination of funds targeted for teacher health insurance.
This year, the education budget was slashed 6.5% to bring appropriations in line with revenues.
Several lawmakers predicted on Sunday that Gov. Hunt, a two-term Republican, will face stiff opposition from the Democratic majority when the Legislature meets in four weeks to redraft the budget.
"In my opinion, the veto was stupid," said Rep. Michael E. Box, D-Montgomery. "What is going to happen now is that we will pass another budget, and I don't see this one being much different."
He said any restoration of funding to programs favored by the governor would have to come from other areas -- most likely human services -- and would be resisted by the Democratic leadership.
Like Gov. Hunt, Rep. Box ruled out any tax increases to restore cuts. "No tax increases are going to come before the tax system is reformed, and that is not likely to come until next year," he said.
Rep. June Bugg, D-Mobile, also predicted that a substantial revision of the vetoed general-fund budget is unlikely. "Where are the cuts going to come from to fund the increases Gov. Hunt wants?" she said. "The battle may be fought again, but the outcome is not going to be much different.'