General Fund passes Alabama Senate, advances from House committee
MONTGOMERY — The General Fund budget for Fiscal Year 2021 has made significant headway in the first three days of the Alabama legislature returning to business this week.
The Alabama Senate on Tuesday approved SB 157, the FY21 General Fund budget, as substituted and then amended on the floor by a 31-0 vote.
This General Fund budget, which covers all non-education state spending, sets aside an additional $35 million for the Alabama Department of Public Health along with an increase of $94 million for the Alabama Medicaid Agency. This budget also appropriates an additional $3 million for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) to hire 25 new state troopers, increases the Department of Corrections’ budget by $23 million and provides an extra $25 million to the Alabama Department of Mental Health.
“This year we pumped up the agencies and departments in need since they are under siege. We also wanted to make sure they had enough resources to properly respond to the issue at hand,” stated State Senator Greg Albritton (R-Atmore), chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee.
“We put a priority on public safety, with the increase for additional troopers on the road and conditional appropriations for the Department of Corrections. None of the money allocated was received from the federal government meaning we expect to have additional money made available to the state general fund due to the Covid-19 outbreak,” he continued.
The Alabama Senate also passed State Senator Clyde Chambliss’ (R-Prattville) SB 129, which is a “Rolling Reserve” bill for the General Fund. Albritton said this bill is a show of the body’s conservatism and in his view is part of the budget package, along with supplemental appropriations bills SB 158, SB 160 and SB 161.
“I want to thank Senator Albritton for his hard work — as this budget illustrates, Republicans in the State Legislature remain committed to fiscal discipline. Since 2011, we have cut the state government workforce by 14%, saving taxpayers millions of dollars,” said Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) in a statement.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) also praised Albritton for his work on the General Fund budget.
“Obviously this is not the budget we thought we would have when the session started, however this is a strong budget that gives state agencies a place to start as they work on their individual budgets for next year,” Marsh outlined. “If we determine that changes to this budget need to be made we can still do so next session without additional expense to the taxpayers in a special session. I want to commend Senator Albritton on a job well done in a difficult situation.”
After passing the Senate, SBs 157, 158, 160, 161 and 129 all advanced to the House Ways and Means General Fund committee, which considered the bills on Wednesday morning.
SBs 158, 160 and 129 all were advanced by the committee without any changes. SB 161 was advanced as amended, as was SB 157. The House committee amendment to SB 157 included relatively minor changes.
One key component of the committee amendment was restoring the state auditor’s office to relatively level funding. State Reps. Rich Wingo (R-Tuscaloosa) and Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) attempted to restore the office to totally level funding, but their effort was defeated by a voice vote in committee.
This came after House Ways and Means General Fund Chairman Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) pointed out that the Senate voted 17-13 on Tuesday to defeat an amendment restoring the office’s budget line item from a 47% cut to level funding; Clouse advised that the funding amount for the state auditor’s office advanced by his committee should be a compromise amount between the chambers and tracks with cuts that had to be made to other agencies and offices.
The House will be in a position beginning Thursday to consider both the General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets. The education budget has not yet moved through the Senate.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn