House passes largest-ever General Fund budget including 2% raise for state employees and increase in mental health funds
The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a $2.4 billion General Fund budget, the state’s largest-ever. It includes a 2% pay raise for state employees.
Other investments provided for in the legislation include an increase in support for the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles and funds to build Alabama’s fourth mental health crisis diversion center, this one in the Jefferson County area.
Sponsored by Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), chair of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee, the fiscal year 2022 budget passed with a vote of 101-1.
“All in all, I feel like this is a very good budget,” Clouse told reporters after the bill’s passage.
A budget of similar size was planned for the previous fiscal year before uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus pandemic trimmed its ambitions.
Clouse cited the Simplified Sellers Use Tax (SSUT) on items sold online as a key factor in keeping state revenues steady amid the pandemic.
“It had been going up anyway, but because of the COVID and people staying home and ordering over the internet, that really increased the sales,” he advised.
Alabama’s General Fund budget receives 75% of SSUT revenue, and the education budget receives the rest.
A change in the formula the federal government uses to fund Medicaid also provided a boon to the state budget, per Clouse, who said the new method developed during the pandemic decreased what the state owed to the program.
For fiscal year 2021, the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles made up a significant portion of its appropriation from funding unused in previous years. This made necessary the increase in its appropriation for fiscal year 2022.
In further remarks on the budget, Clouse noted, “It leaves some money on the table to help us get ready for any type of other surprises we might have down the road.”
He later clarified the amount was about $40 million.
The General Fund budget now heads to the Alabama Senate.
“There will obviously be changes,” Clouse said of the budget’s fate in the upper chamber, adding he did not think they’d be major.
He advised, “I think that things will go smoothly.”
Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.