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Legislature almost out of funds for budget year

Staff Report

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Legislature is rapidly running out of operating money for the year.

It has reached a level that without a clause in the state code allowing that branch of government to receive $500,000 infusions, senators, representatives and staffers likely wouldn’t be paid through the end of the budget year.

The budget year ends Sept. 30.

The two men who run the Senate and House administration blame two years of proration — mid-year budget cuts — for the shortfall.

But Republican leadership said the Legislature, like just about every other state agency, needs to learn to make more spending cuts.

Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, has pre-filed a bill that, if approved in 2013, will take away the Legislature’s optional additional funding, referred to as “evergreen appropriations.”

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“To have a special way to allow the Legislature to get additional funding during years of proration is unacceptable to me,” Orr said. “We need to live within our means, just like the rest of state government.”

The section of the state code that allows for the additional money was added in the 1980s to ensure that the Legislature always has money to function. It’s only been used once, in the early 1990s, officials said. It allows the Legislature to receive the $500,000 in additional money up to four times per fiscal quarter, which could mean $2 million per quarter or $8 million per year.

“We will probably have to ask (for it) three or four times (before Sept. 30),” Clerk of the House Greg Pappas said.

Pappas said the Legislature’s budget, which largely funds salaries, got “clobbered” by proration in recent years.

Money for the evergreen appropriation would come from General Fund, said Bill Newton, assistant director of the state Department of Finance.

The money had not been requested as of early this week, but will likely be necessary to meet the Legislature’s Aug. 31 payroll, which totals $577,763 for senators and representatives and $363,645 for employees, Secretary of the Senate Pat Harris said. Legislators are paid monthly, while staff members get paid every two weeks.

“The bottom line is that we’re going to be out of money,” Harris said. “Under the (state) code, I can’t ask for (the additional money) until I reach $100,000 in my budget. I will be there at the end of August.”

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This year, the Legislature was allocated about $19.6 million for the year, after the 10.6 percent proration, according to budget information. The Legislature also pays rent on the Alabama State House and has to pay various vendors that service the building, Harris said.

The budget for the Legislature is separate from that of the other offices, including the Legislative Fiscal Office and offices of the elected speaker of the House and Senate president pro tem.

The House speaker received $1.89 million this year, while the Senate president pro tem received $2.179 million, based on state records.

Derek Trotter, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, who is a co-sponsor on Orr’s bill, said Marsh has cut his own budget by about 65 percent, or $1.2 million, in the past two years, mostly by reducing staff.

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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.

DIG DEEPER

Legislature

It would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers, as the special session was specifically called to address redistricting.

Elections

SD12 is currently represented by former Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, who is not running for re-election. 

Elections

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, is seeking re-election in state Senate District 3.

Elections

Congressman Mike Rogers has endorsed Keith Kelly in state Senate District 12.