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Pension proposed for former governor

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The state Senate’s Democratic leader introduced legislation Tuesday to provide $36,000 a year in state funding to former Republican Gov. Guy Hunt, who’s battling lung cancer.

Hunt, who lives on a small farm in Holly Pond, said he’s grateful for the consideration and could use the money to help with the medical bills from his ongoing chemotherapy.

“When you’ve got cancer, you can always use extra money,” Hunt, 73, said in a phone interview.

Alabama law allows a governor to appoint a former two-term governor who is at least 60 years old to the position of “governor’s councillor,” with a salary of $18,000 annually. The late Gov. George C. Wallace is the only one ever appointed to that position. Hunt would qualify, but no governor has ever appointed him.

Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little, D-Cullman, introduced a bill on the opening day of the legislative session that would make the position of governor’s councillor automatic and would increase the compensation to $36,000 annually.

Little’s bill follows a resolution passed by the Senate in 2006 and a letter signed by the majority of the Legislature in 2005 to urge Riley to appoint Hunt to the councillor’s position.

Hunt said he and Riley haven’t talked about it.

Little said his bill “takes it out of the political process” by making it automatic for two-term governors like Hunt.

Hunt was elected in 1986, becoming Alabama’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction, and was re-elected in 2000. He was convicted of an ethics violation in 2003 and removed from office.

Hunt tried to make two political comebacks, running for governor in 1998 and against Little for the Senate in 2002, but lost both races. Little, who has known Hunt for years, said the former governor didn’t ask him to help.

Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr., who replaced Hunt as governor in 1993, said he would like to see the state assist the ailing governor.

“It’s fitting, especialy in Governor Hunt’s condition today that we honor him,” said Folsom, who, like Hunt, hails from Cullman County.

Folsom said he will probably step aside from presiding over the Senate when Little’s bill comes up because it would also affect his mother, Jamelle Folsom, the widow of two-term governor James E. “Big” Jim Folsom.

The governor’s councillor law provides an automatic payment of $14,400 per year to the widows of governors if they don’t remarry. Jamelle Folsom currently receives that.

Little’s bill would raise the widow’s compensation to $24,000 annually.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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