Finance, Revenue officials suggest reforms for budget process

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Legislators are attempting to find a long-term fix for Alabama’s seemingly endless General Fund budgeting woes. But that long-term fix seems far in the distance.

Today, officials from the executive branch offered their input to the Legislative Task Force on Budget Reform, a joint committee of the Alabama Legislature tasked with finding that solution.

Newly appointed State Finance Director Clinton Carter posed several ideas to the joint committee, including reforming agency budget rollovers and implementing a “race to the bottom” budgeting concept.

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Groundbreaking Study Shows Enormous Financial Impact of Alabama’s Energy Industry

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

A first of its kind study found that Alabama’s energy industry contributes more than $13 billion to the State’s economy each year, and that at least 124,000 jobs depend on the energy sector.

This groundbreaking study released by the Energy Institute of Alabama showed that Alabama’s General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets are enriched by at least $385 million directly from the energy sector.
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Regional Care Organizations Collapsing

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—The promised dream of Regional Care Organizations (RCOs) saving the State’s underfunded and overburdened Medicaid system continues to unravel.

Just recently, the University of Birmingham Medical Systems and Viva Heath Inc., abandoned their programs indefinitely, citing the instability of State funding.

Last month, The Alabama Political Reporter obtained a letter from Mike Warren, President and CEO of Children of Alabama, to Medicaid Agency Commissioner Stephanie Azar in which he detailed the failure of the RCO plan adopted by Gov. Robert Bentley (which was approved by the State Legislature). In it, Warren offers a withering critique of the programs including the false promise of cost savings under the RCO model. “The numbers are frightening,” Warren writes. “RCOs will actually cost the State’s General Fund a substantial amount more than keeping the current program funded.”
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Amid Investigations, Lawsuits, Bentley Appoints New Finance Director

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—After a Federal audit of the State’s Finance Department, which has yet to be made public, Governor Robert Bentley announced, on Friday, that Clinton Carter, the State’s Deputy Finance Director, will step up to serve as the new State Finance Director.

After serving for nearly three years as the Acting Finance Director under Bentley, Bill Newton will not longer be heading Bentley’s Finance Department. Bentley gave no reason for the shake-up but said he was proud to have Clinton back to assume this role.
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Bentley Doing The Right Thing

By Steve Flowers

Folks, I have been observing and participating in the legislative process for over 50 years. Lest you think I am real old, I started paging in the legislature when I was 12, served in the House of Representatives close to two decades, and have been reporting on the legislative process for now close to two decades and I am here to tell you I have not seen a more up and down roller coaster ride than the recently completed special session to deal with the lottery issue.
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Budget Task Force Leaders Committed to Reform, But Can It Be Achieved?

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Tackling budget reform is priority one, according to Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia). Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) called for reforms and voiced his commitment during the recent Special Legislative Session.

During this Session, McCutcheon sponsored and passed JHR62, which establishes a task force with a five-point mandate that will culminate with recommendations for budget reforms to be presented at the beginning of the 2017 Regular Session.
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Senate To Continue Debate BP Bill

By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—As the Senate gathers this week, using BP Settlement monies to pay back the State’s debts and assist in the Medicaid crisis will again be up for debate.

HB36, sponsored by House Ways and Means General Fund Chairman Representative Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) has already been approved by the House with a vote of 91-10. It passed out of Senate Committee late last month and was introduced on the floor. The bill creates an Economic Settlement Authority to issue $639 million in bonds payable by the BP Settlement funds. The bill would pay back $161 million borrowed in 2009 and $437 million from the Alabama Trust Fund borrowed in 2013 of which the State still owes $422 million. Both debts were incurred because of deficits in previous General Fund Budgets.
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Zeigler Thinks Special Session Heading Toward Failure

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—State Auditor Jim Zeigler believes, if a proposed BP bill fails, the entire Legislative Session will be a waste.

Zeigler favors the compromise bill to allocate $850 million in BP settlement split between State debt and Baldwin and Mobile counties. Under the agreement $448 million would repay State debts and $191 million would go to Baldwin and Mobile counties, which were directly impacted by the spill. “Repaying the debt will then free up $70 million for the General Fund, filling the reported shortfall in the Medicaid budget,” according to Zeigler.
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Governor’s Emotional Appeals Aren’t Fooling Anyone

By Beth Clayton
Alabama Political Reporter

I usually follow the #ALpolitics hashtag on Twitter, and it’s usually good for up-to-date news and up-to-date laughs. Lately, those laughs have come from the Governor’s account–he’s taken to the Twittersphere multiple times in the last week to emphasize the growing need to fully fund Medicaid, highlighting faces of people–particularly children–whose coverage would be at risk without a state lottery.

Governor, don’t be ridiculous. Don’t play the pity card now, after you’ve spent the past two years denying Medicaid expansion that would save an estimated 600 lives every year.
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