McCutcheon: Expect strong results for GOP in Alabama Tuesday — Lottery, gas tax and health care addressed next session
In a wide-ranging interview that aired on Mobile’s FM Talk 106.5 on Thursday, Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) addressed Tuesday’s upcoming election and what his expectations were for next year’s legislative session.
On Tuesday’s general election, he said statewide there were a few races that he considered to be “active” on both sides of the fence.
“Most of the polling numbers we are getting are favorable,” he said. “Our candidates out there are doing a good job. Of course, some of these are incumbents. And then some of them are in the new and open seats. Overall, we are pleased with where we are.”
The lottery proposal has been one in this election season that has gotten a lot of attention, especially given the enormous jackpots for some of the lottery drawings nationally.
McCutcheon noted the push for a lottery had been an annual occurrence up on Goat Hill. In this upcoming legislative session, however, he said he expected it to get more attention given the public’s interest in the issue.
“We’ve dealt with the lottery bill for the last several years,” he said. “We deal with one every session. I think the upcoming session will be no different. What’s going to be the difference in this next upcoming session is the public is more educated with the lottery issue now. There’s been more talk about it in our communities around the state.”
The specifics of any lottery proposal will have a lot to do with whether or not that proposal moves forward, including how the proceeds from a lottery would be spent.
“I think the key issue is members in the House that want to support a lottery – they want to make sure that the definition is clear and understandable by the people to make sure it is not trying to be a massive gambling bill that is dealing with the statewide lottery issue, and it’ll be a vote of the people. I think that is one thing that will help move the bill forward,” stated McCutcheon.
“In the debate, if we get to the point where we have a debate on the floor for the lottery, I think the next question is going to be is where are the proceeds going to go?” he added. “Is it going to be something to shore up the general fund, or is it going to be an education lottery? Those are some questions that we still have to answer.”
The possibility of raising the state’s gas tax has also been mentioned in political circles given that roads and bridges have been a hot-button issue during this election cycle. McCutcheon predicted the gas tax would be on next year’s legislative agenda.
“I think we are,” he said. “I’ve been a supporter of our transportation since day one of being elected. I see the value of the transportation system to the economic growth of our state. The two go hand and hand.”
“We cannot continue to borrow enough money to fix our transportation issues,” McCutcheon added. “Our traffic congestion is growing. Our interconnecting systems that we need to have connectional four-lane systems in areas of our state connecting to the Interstate system is so vital to our recruitment of companies coming into the state, and we’ve got to address this issue. I think to have a tax, revenue stream at the pump is going to be a part of that package. But there’s other things we need to be looking at as well. This is a comprehensive bill that we really need to pay close attention to, such as the funding formula for the counties. How do we distribute the money out? Is the legislative body going to have a voice in the projects? Do we grade the projects out and try to take some of the politics out of which projects get done and which ones sit back on a 10-to-15-year plan. All these things are going to be a part of this, and we need to work hard on moving these things forward.”
One of the issues raised on the gubernatorial campaign trail, particularly by Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, the Democratic nominee for governor, has been the expansion of Medicaid, especially with the recent string of rural hospital closures.
“This isn’t something that hasn’t just come up,” McCutcheon said. “We’ve been working with this, with the Medicaid issue and the funding that we are paying into the Medicaid system. It continues to grow. Last year was the first year in several years we were able to actually save a little money and level out our Medicaid funding. But that’s just a one-year thing. The Medicare and Medicaid payments coming into our facilities – that is also an important component of our rural hospitals and hospital network.”
McCutcheon said creating a regional network of hospitals as part of a possible solution. However, he seemed to be skeptical of how the expansion of Medicaid as a solution would be financed.
“At the end of the day, it is easy for somebody to get out here and talk about the expansion of Medicaid, but when you really dig down into the weeds, and you look at the numbers and the increase in numbers, the question that’s out there – how are you going to pay for it? Where is the money coming from?” he questioned.
He went on to add that given the number of dollars the state has received from Washington, D.C., Alabama has done well.
“But we’ve got to move forward with some innovative plans, especially when it comes to rural health care,” he said. “We’re still working on that. I couldn’t give you an answer today of what that would be, but we’ve got some people that are looking at all the options to see where we stand.”
McCutcheon also spoke about his recent Power of Service award he received at a reception hosted by Yellowhammer News last week.