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$15B day: Education, general budgets moving through Legislature

The Legislature is on track to finalize four major budget bills today. 

The $3 billion General Fund, $8.8 billion Education Trust Fund (ETF), and two supplemental spending plans, totaling roughly $4 billion, make for a $15 billion day in decisions for both chambers. All four bills were passed out of committees with amendments Wednesday. 

A General Fund budget package that includes seven appropriation bills is moving through the Senate chamber.

A $3 billion General Fund budget was approved in committee, which is slightly smaller than the House version, but about $162 million larger than the last year’s General Fund. 

The proposed general fund includes a 2% pay raise for state employees and retains most of the House-approved increases to state agencies. It includes notable increases to the Alabama Medicaid Agency and the Department of Corrections, along with a slight increase for the Alabama Department of Mental Health.

The House Ways and Means Education Committee gave its approval for the ETF and related bills Wednesday. 

An unprecedented feature of this year’s budget process is a $2.8 billion supplemental spending plan facilitated by surplus revenue in the ETF. 

The package underwent several changes in committee. The largest was a nearly $221 million reduction from the Senate-approved $500 million Educational Opportunities Reserve Fund, leaving it at $279 million. 

Significantly, the House also restored funding for Gov. Ivey’s one-time tax rebate proposal, which was passed by a full vote in the amount of $120 rebates for individuals and $240 for couples filing jointly. 

The ETF itself also saw some increases. The Department of Education received more funds for one-time expenses, including an additional $1.75 million for tornado reconstruction at Selma Elementary School and $2 million more each for the Saban Discovery Center and the Ed Farm. Other funding increases involved the Department of Mental Health, University of North Alabama, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The proposed $8.8 billion Education Trust Fund budget, approximately $537 million larger than the current budget, passed an Alabama House committee and could receive full House approval today. This budget represents a 6.5% increase and includes a 2% pay raise for teachers, a 7.2% increase in funding for colleges and universities, and a significant funding boost for the Alabama Reading Initiative and the Alabama Math, Science, Technology Initiative.

As both budgets drop in their respective chambers today, it could be a long day for the legislature. However, once budgets are approved and head to Gov. Kay Ivey, their primary constitutional duty is complete for the 2023 session. 

Grayson Everett is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270 for coverage of the 2023 legislative session.

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