By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—On Tuesday night the Alabama House of Representatives passed a $1.7 billion General Fund budget without raising taxes on the people of Alabama. The House passed the budget by a comfortable margin of 75 to 27 after lengthy debate.
The Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn said in a written statement, “It has been over 3 years since President Obama and Congress passed any budget, let alone a common-sense, fiscally responsible budget like this one. While the federal government continues on their unchecked spending spree, we are making tough decisions in Alabama to ensure that we’re living within our means and using tax dollars in the most efficient manner possible.”
The state’s general fund budget has been stung in recent years by nearly stagnant revenues and rapidly rising Alabama Medicaid costs. The fiscal year 2012/2013 budget passed last year was so light on revenues that legislators asked voters to borrow $437 million from the Alabama Trust Fund. The legislature is still propping up this budget with that money, though this budget would make payments toward that debt to future generations.
House General Fund Co-Chairman Jim Barton (R) from Mobile said, “With a ballooning Medicaid budget and decreasing revenues we’ve been dealt a difficult hand. I’m proud of the work we’ve done to maximize our state’s resources all while continuing to streamline and reduce the size of government.”
House General Fund Co-Chairman Steve Clouse (R) from Ozark said, “Doing more with less requires more and more tough decisions to be made. It is imperative that we continue to ensure that Alabamians receive the vital services they need and this budget is a great compromise to ensure those services are prioritized and adequately funded.”
The Alabama House Republican Caucus wrote on Facebook, “After a lengthy debate, the House passes the General Fund Budget. Unlike the Federal Government, Alabama must budget within its means. While the budget was slightly less than last year, it included increases to the court system, Department of Corrections, and the first payback installment toward the Rainy Day Trust Fund.”
The Caucus wrote in a written statement, ?Republicans promised Alabama taxpayers that we would repay the Alabama Trust Fund, and the passage of this budget continues to deliver on that promise with the first installment of funds allotted to repayment. The budget proposal largely provides level funding for state agencies and includes increases for the Department of Corrections, the state court system, the Department of Human Resources and the Alabama Department of Commerce.”
House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D) from Gadsden was less pleased. Rep. Ford said in a written statement, “The governor and legislative leaders have made it clear that they want to eliminate government jobs – a process they call “rightsizing government.” Perhaps a greater injustice to our state employees is that they will not be getting a long-overdue cost-of-living pay increase this year.” “We are dangerously close to underfunding Medicaid. Last year, voters had to approve a constitutional amendment to allow the government to borrow from the Alabama Trust Fund just to avoid the Medicaid program collapsing. This year, we are on the edge of being in the same position. Why?
Rep. Ford concluded, “I am deeply concerned that these budgets are insufficient to meet Alabama’s needs. Yes, times are tough and we have to make some hard decisions. But are these the best decisions we could be making? Are these cuts really in the best interests of the taxpayers?”
The budget now goes back to the Alabama Senate for consideration of the changes made by the House.
Rep. Christopher John England said on Facebook, “House has adjourned until 3:30 PM tomorrow. All bills on today’s special order passed.”
The House also passed measures to reform the Alabama Medicaid program (the costliest single item in the General Fund) including HB 454.