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State agencies’ chiefs assess tight budgets

Staff Report

Taking stock of the cuts in next year’s budget, most state agency heads said they can survive — if voters approve a critical constitutional amendment for the General Fund budget. But even with that approval, residents can expect higher fees and less access to services. And at least one agency isn’t ruling out layoffs.

The Legislature last month approved a $1.6 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 that would cut the overall General Fund budget by some 3 percent. Funding for Medicaid and Corrections, the largest two entities in the General Fund, hinges on the approval of the constitutional amendment. Without it, officials will either have to find a new revenue source or cut $185 million from the budget. Gov. Robert Bentley has promised to veto any new taxes proposed by the Legislature.

That could leave the General Fund in much worse shape than it is, said Mac McArthur, executive director of the Alabama State Employees’ Association.

“If the Legislature and governor do not come up with more revenue, you’re looking at an absolute train wreck in state government,” he said.

But if failure to pass the amendment would be a train wreck, passing it would leave state agencies with little more ability than to slow down the crash, with consequences for the whole of Alabama.

State Health Officer Don Williamson said last week that he expects the $16 million cut expected at the Alabama Department of Health to mean fewer restaurant inspections and either the closing of or consolidation of several county health clinics.

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The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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