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State Auditor Zeigler: ‘May be a push for tax increases’ if Biden administration says no to federal COVID relief money used for prisons

A portion of the financing for the $1.3 billion new prison construction plan passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey earlier this month was to come from federal COVID-19 relief money.

As much as $400 million is believed to be eligible for the prison construction plan from money set aside by Congress offered to state governments to make up for budget shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler warns the Biden Treasury Department could reject Alabama’s proposed use of those funds for new prison construction.

During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5 on Monday, Zeigler said should that be the case, the state could look for ways to make up for that additional $400 million, which come in the forms of borrowing or a tax increase.

“They could go back to the legislature in the next special session on redistricting, or a third special session or the January regular session and pass another bond issue for an additional $400 million,” he said. “That bond issue would then be funded, amortized the state’s general fund. And there may be a push for tax increases to pay for the prison plan.”

“That’s not going to be politically popular or feasible to do that,” Zeigler continued.

Zeigler said such an effort by the legislature this close to the election cycle would be unprecedented.

“They could — this is an election year,” he reiterated. “All 140 seats in the legislature are up on May 24, coming up in seven months. Man — try to ram through another tax increase, remember we’ve already had Governor Ivey’s 10 cents a gallon gasoline tax increase three years ago. That was almost four years before the next primary, before the next election. To ram one through at this late stage of the quadrennium, meaning the four-year term — that’s just unheard of.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.