Bills would keep more TVA money in county
The Tennessee Valley Caucus, a coalition of lawmakers anchored by Franklin County's Johnny Mack Morrow, is fighting in Montgomery to keep monies collected from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in North Alabama.
The goal of the group is to give counties in the TVA's service area a greater share of money the agency pays to the state in lieu of taxes.
"We're working together to help North Alabama, which has been traditionally under-funded," Morrow said.
TVA is a federal agency and is not required to pay taxes to state and local governments. Prior to 1978, all TVA in-lieu-of-tax revenue went to the state's General Fund.
The TVA revenue formula was set in 1978 as a compromise between TVA-area lawmakers, legislators representing dry counties and then-Gov. George Wallace.
Currently, a portion of TVA revenue goes to 14 counties not in TVA's coverage area, which prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages. Legislation pushed by the caucus and approved by the Legislature in 2006 recaptured millions of dollars for TVA counties. The caucus is again fighting to return an additional amount of the diverted TVA funds.
Three bills addressing the issue have passed committee this session.
"What we've been able to do is stick together as a region and fight to bring money back to our area," Morrow said. "It makes no sense for our counties to subsidize dry counties."
The 2006 legislation required local elected officials to provide a mechanism to oversee the additional money and how it will be spent. To distribute the money, many counties are creating community development commissions.
All funds must be spent locally for the benefit of the county, and there are limits on how it may be spent.
Local area projects funded include education, economic development, and volunteer fire departments and rescue squads. Other types of projects funded include public and mental health, conservation, promoting literacy, recreation, art appreciation, reducing hardships of old age and promoting Alabama-produced agricultural commodities.
"Funds that were going to other counties can now be used in our area for projects that we might not otherwise be able to support," said Morrow. "Now we have more money available for economic development, volunteer fire departments and rescue squads."
The Tennessee Valley Caucus is a group of 20 members from the House of Representatives who represent North Alabama counties. Formed in 2005, the group meets regularly during the legislative session to address issues affecting the Tennessee Valley area such as TVA in-lieu-of funds and protecting the Tennessee River from inter-basin transfers.