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After Bentley’s failed lottery push, legislature taps BP Oil Spill money as short-term funding fix

Alabama State House (Photo: Creative Commons/Jay Williams)
Alabama State House (Photo: Creative Commons/Jay Williams)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama legislature concluded a whirlwind special session on Wednesday after the House and Senate finally reached an agreement on a plan to pay down debt, cover the shortfall in Medicaid, and fund infrastructure projects on the Gulf coast.

Gov. Robert Bentley’s lottery push met its demise two weeks ago, resulting in state lawmakers wrestling with how to scrounge up roughly $85 million to fund the state’s embattled Medicaid program, in which roughly 1 million of the state’s residents participate.

Partisanship quickly took a backseat to regional politics, with south Alabama lawmakers banding together to fight the rest of the state over how the legislature would allocate the remaining BP Oil Spill settlement money.

After a contentious two days, cooler heads prevailed and legislators passed a plan to use $400 million to pay down debt, $120 million to Medicaid, and funnel $120 million to south Alabama to fund road projects in areas hardest hit by the BP Oil Spill.

The bill will now go across S. Union St. to the governor’s desk for his signature.

Senators shook hands and hugged as they adjourned for the year, but not everyone was happy with the final deal.

“Legislators patting themselves on the back for good work,” tweeted Sen. Paul Sanford (R-Madison). “They just voted to give away $200mm to fill a $85mm shortfall. Good work, NOT!”

With a roughly five-month break until lawmakers reconvene for the 2017 legislative session, attention will turn to GOP-led efforts to identify longterm solutions for the state’s seemingly never-ending short-term funding crises.

“This effort will be my number one priority moving forward,” McCutcheon tweeted.

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