In almost every year of the Bentley-Ivey administration, the governor’s budget proposal has included a “trick” to steal road and bridge funds to prop up the Unified Judicial System. In FY 2011, Gov. Bentley requested $20M and the Legislature appropriated $25M of road and bridge funds for the courts. In each year since then the amount transferred has been $35M.
Gov. Ivey’s FY 2019 budget recommendation included the same $35M transfer from road and bridge funds to the courts, and pursuant to Ala. Act 2018-354 the Legislature appropriated the funds pursuant to the Governor’s recommendation.
Because of this practice, through end of FY 2019, $305 million will have been diverted from the road & bridge fund to the United Judicial System.
Per Alabama Const. Art. IV, Sec. 111.06 (Amendment 354), in order for an appropriation of this nature from road & bridge funds to be lawful, the expenditure must be related to one of the following:
Cost of traffic regulation, or the expense of enforcing state traffic and motor vehicle laws.
Use of road and bridge funds for the courts violates this constitutional provision. “Regulation” is an executive or legislative function, and “enforcement” is an executive function. Therefore an appropriation of road and bridge funds to the Unified Judicial System to perform judicial functions is unconstitutional. This becomes even clearer when one considers that the appropriation to the courts is not restricted to traffic court. Traffic courts pay for themselves through fines and court costs paid by those who receive tickets.