Alabama House passes bill unearmarking $508 million in beleaguered General Fund budget
MONGTOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama House Wednesday passed a bill removing earmarks from 30 state agencies and revenue streams in the General Fund, giving lawmakers more room to prioritize during the budgeting process.
The bill, HB46 passed on a wide bipartisan vote of 83-13, and will go into effect during the 2017 fiscal year, meaning it won’t immediately address the General Fund’s budget shortfall.
Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville) told Yellowhammer Wednesday that removing the earmarks is a “step in the right direction.”
“This bill will give legislators the ability to prioritize where the money goes,” Ainsworth said, “and moving agencies toward a zero-based budget would require them to show how they’re spending taxpayer money each year.”
Earlier this year Rep. Ainsworth laid out the case for removing many earmarks from the budgeting process in an op-ed published by Yellowhammer News.
To put it simply, we have an allocation problem in Alabama, not a revenue problem.
In years past, whenever a new tax was approved, its proceeds were earmarked for one specific purpose or another. Some of these earmarks are constitutional, which means the voters, in their wisdom, dedicated the taxes to an agency, initiative, or spotlighted need during referendum elections.
Many of Alabama’s statutory earmarks, however, were put in place many years ago through back room bargains between lobbyists and long-retired politicians who no longer roam the State House halls. The only way to avoid new taxes is to remove these earmarks and set priorities based on need, not on decades-old, money-hoarding schemes that lobbyists locked into our budgets.
Alabama is one of only three states that has two separate budgets, but, more to the point, we have the highest percentage of earmarked tax dollars in the nation at 91 percent. The national average is just 24 percent, and the next highest state behind Alabama is Michigan with 63 percent. Rhode Island is the lowest in the United States with only 4 percent of its tax revenues being earmarked.
Before we consider asking for one more dime of taxes, let us first restore a measure of sanity, implement good business practices, and use some everyday common sense in the way we budget.
Below is a detailed list of the areas of the budget that would be unearmarked by the bill.
Agriculture and Industries
Forest Products Severance $5,500,000
Secretary of State
Corporation Filing Fees $2,000,000
Department of Public Health
Cigarette Tax $2,500,000
Department of Human Resources
Alcohol Taxes $52,000,000
Sales and Use Tax $71,000,000
Contractors Gross Receipts $6,000,000
Cigarette Tax $2,500,000
Property Tax $21,000,000
Insurance Premium Tax $4,500,000
Alcohol Taxes $35,500,000
Utility Taxes $140,000,000
Contractors Gross Receipts $36,000,000
Cigarette Tax $5,000,000
Property Tax $30,000,000
Sales and Use Tax $6,000,000
Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Fees $44,500,000
Tourism Lodgings Tax $14,000,000
The bill moves next to the Senate.
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015