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General Fund Budget Options

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, March 31, our sources are reporting that a Republican Alabama general fund budget will be introduced on Wednesday, April 1, that balances the State’s by cutting spending without any revenue increases.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) has been promoting his own general fund budget that contains $541 million worth of tax increases to pay for a 24 percent increase in the size of the State’s general fund.

Many conservatives across the State are encouraging passage of an alternative that does not raise taxes in the State. Legislators reportedly will unveil the first draft of a budget on Wednesday that does just that.

A public hearing that was to take place on Gov. Bentley’s tax proposals has been cancelled so that the Senate Ways & Means Committee can focus on the more frugal budget proposal, which could slash the budget request for some State agencies by 25 percent or more.

State revenues have failed to keep up with the growth of State government, particularly the State’s increasingly costly Medicaid program which is expected to grow by another $110 million in 2016.

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Governor Bentley estimates that the State also needs to spend another $38 million to address chronic problems with the State’s correction system. Alabama is at 192 percent prison capacity and State leaders fear a possible federal takeover of the State prisons. Gov. Bentley also would like to pay back moneys the State owes the federal government and restores moneys transferred from the Transportation Department and Education that the State has been using for general fund needs.

The frugal no new taxes budget reportedly does not address any of the money which Gov. Bentley claims that the State needs to pay back to the feds. The budget also cuts $261 million from the anticipated growth in the general fund’s needs.

While the frugal budget cuts non-education related State agencies the Bentley budget raises cigarette taxes, car rental taxes, insurance taxes, utility taxes, and automobile sales taxes. Many of these proposals have been around for a series of years, but most were introduced by Democrats.

Governor Bentley told the Alabama Political Reporter on Tuesday that he is confident that legislators will pass his proposals.  Gov. Bentley said that the General Fund budget has been a problem for years and that it is important to address that issue.

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Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) told the Anniston Star’s Tim Lockette that the Senate budget, “Proposal is a serious proposal.” Sen. Del Marsh said, “I think there are some in the Legislature who are of the mindset that we can continue to right-size government rather than raising taxes.”

Sen. Marsh on Thursday told a.m. radio host Matt Murphy that last week’s US Supreme Court decision on redistricting means that some legislators may have the possibility of special elections in the backs of their minds, making it less likely that they will vote for higher taxes. Many of the GOP Senators have signed Grover Norquist’s “No New Taxes” pledge while campaigning. Governor Bentley himself ran on a no new taxes and limited government platform. The Governor claims that his advisers did not tell him how bad the general fund budget was until the day after he was reelected.

The State of Alabama has most of its revenues earmarked for a specific purpose and the State has two budgets: the general fund and the Education Trust Fund (ETF). The ETF appears to be fine this year, but it has more growth dollars earmarked to it than the struggling general fund budget does. Many legislators have criticized the unique two checkbooks system; but there has been no proposal to eliminate the earmarking and combining the two budgets.

House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D from Gadsden) has said he will introduce a lottery proposal to deal with the General Fund shortfall.

The Legislative Fiscal Office estimates that the State of Alabama will have only about $1.59 billion in 2016. Governor Bentley wants to spend over $2.1 billion a year.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Alabama Democrats launch “biggest” turnout campaign in their history

“Our organizers and volunteers have been working relentlessly to turn out the vote,” the Alabama Democratic Party said.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama Democratic Party said Friday that they have launched the biggest get-out-the-vote campaign in their history in a bid to re-elect U.S. Sen. Doug Jones.

“We’ve made over 3.5 million voter contacts this election cycle,” the ADP wrote in an email to supporters. “Today, we’ve started the biggest GOTV campaign in our history. We will be contacting voters around the clock from now until Election Day. As it stands, we have enough money to reach about 91 percent of the voters in our GOTV universe.”

“Our organizers and volunteers have been working relentlessly to turn out the vote,” the ADP said. “They are contacting voters in all 67 Alabama counties, making sure every Democrat has a plan to vote on Nov. 3.”

On Saturday, Jones will make several campaign stops throughout the Birmingham area to encourage voters to turn out on Election Day. He will make stops in his hometown of Fairfield as well as in Bessemer, Pratt City and East Lake.

Jefferson County is the Alabama Democratic Party’s main stronghold in the conservative state of Alabama. Mobilizing Democratic voters to come out, especially in Jefferson County, is essential if they are to have any hope of re-electing Jones, who has been trailing in public polling.

Jones’s shocking upset of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore in the 2017 special election is the only statewide race that the Alabama Democratic Party has won since 2008.

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Jones had a decided advantage in money in that contest to saturate the airwaves and fund a GOTV effort to reach Democratic voters in the special election.

The Jones campaign is trying to build upon that success, but it is an uphill battle and he’s widely viewed as the most vulnerable Democratic senator up for re-election in 2020.

This time, Jones’s Republican opponent is not hamstrung by allegations of sexual misconduct and Trump is at the top of this ticket. The president remains popular in Alabama even if his support has waned in some other states.

Jones needs both an unusually strong Democratic turnout and for a large number of Trump voters to split their ticket and vote for Jones instead of his Republican opponent, Tommy Tuberville.

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Roughly half of Alabamians are straight-ticket voters.

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Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh won’t seek re-election in 2022

Marsh said it would be up to the Republican caucus to decide whether he’ll remain pro tem for the last two years of his term.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston.

Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, the top Republican member of Alabama’s upper chamber, will not seek re-election in 2022. 

Marsh told The Anniston Star, which first reported the story, that he will also not run for governor or the U.S. Senate in 2022 or in the future.

Marsh’s decision to not run again will bring an end to a 24-year career in state politics. Marsh, 64, made school choice a focus of his legislative work over the years, championing charter schools and wrote the Senate’s version of the 2014 Alabama Accountability Act, which allows for tax credits for those who make donations to scholarships for students at private schools. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Marsh found himself on the other side of public health experts’ understanding of the disease, suggesting to a reporter that he’d actually like to see more people become infected to build the state’s overall immunity to the virus, a theory that public health experts say would lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths and many more illnesses. 

Marsh also battled Gov. Kay Ivey over the expenditure of $1.8 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid over the summer, suggesting early on that the state should spend $200 million of that money on a new Statehouse, which drew widespread public condemnation.

The Alabama Legislature later approved Ivey’s plan to spend the federal aid, which does not include a new Statehouse. 

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Marsh explained to AL.com on Friday that during his tenure, the Republican-controlled Legislature has put Alabama’s fiscal well-being on solid ground. 

“Fiscally, I think we’re as strong as a state as we’ve ever been. I think this COVID has shown how financially secure the state is through our policies. I feel very good about our accomplishments,” he told the outlet. “But there comes a time for everything and I just want to make it clear that I do not intend to seek election in 2022.”

Marsh said it would be up to the Republican caucus to decide whether he’ll remain pro tem for the last two years of his term.

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Alabama Power reports progress on restoring power following Hurricane Zeta

Alabama Power said 131,000 outages remain and that the utility provider expects to have service restored to 95 percent of affected customers by Tuesday.

Brandon Moseley

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Crews work to restore power after Hurricane Zeta. (VIA ALABAMA POWER COMPANY)

Alabama Power said Saturday that its crews have restored power to 373,000 customers following Hurricane Zeta, which caused more than 504,000 outages at peak.

As of Saturday at 2:12 p.m., Alabama Power said 131,000 outages remain and that the utility provider expects to have service restored to 95 percent of affected customers by Tuesday.

 

 

Hurricane Zeta hit Louisiana as a category two hurricane on Wednesday before ripping through Mississippi and Alabama. There is an enormous amount of damage across the footprint of the Southern Company, the parent of Alabama Power.

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Alabama Power has said the impact of the storm is similar to what the company experienced during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.

Because Zeta was so fast-moving, it did not lose much of its strength as it moved inland. Much of the state experienced tropical-storm-force winds. There is significant, widespread damage throughout the state.

Alabama Power is having to deal with downed poles and trees that knocked out wires. The company’s crews are working with more than 1,700 lineworkers and support personnel from 19 states and Canada.

Alabama Power said that its crews are working quickly and safely to restore power and will continue to work on restoring power over the weekend.

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Alabama Power storm team evaluators, line crews and support personnel worked throughout the day Thursday and Friday assessing damage and repairing poles and wires damaged in the storm.

Crews are working diligently and as quickly and safely as possible to restore service, the company said.

Remember that there are line crews working along roadways all across the state. Cities, counties and homeowners are still working on debris removal so drive slowly and give yourself more time to get where you are going while out.

Alabama Power warns everyone to stay away from downed power lines, as well as fallen trees and tree limbs that could be hiding downed lines. Always assume a downed line is still energized and poses a potentially deadly hazard.

If you spot a downed line, call Alabama Power at 1-800-888-2726 or local law enforcement and wait for trained crews to perform the potentially dangerous work of removing the line or any surrounding debris.

Hurricane season lasts until the end of November.

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Governor meets with VIP fourth grader

The discussion was described as “wide-ranging and productive.” The governor and McGriff covered everything from school to their love of dogs.

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey and fourth grade student Cate McGriff. (GOVERNOR'S OFFICE PHOTO)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey invited a special guest to meet with her in the governor’s office on Friday: fourth grade student Cate McGriff, known for her impeccable impersonation of the governor.

The discussion was described as “wide-ranging and productive.” The governor and McGriff covered everything from school to their love of dogs.

Ivey asked McGriff what her favorite subject in school is, the governor’s office said. McGriff replied that it was math. She also told the governor that she wanted to attend Auburn University just like Ivey did.

Ivey asked Cate what she wanted to be when she grows up after she attends Auburn. McGriff said that she wants to be an engineer.

Ivey advised her to keep working hard on her math.

Gov. Kay Ivey and fourth grade student Cate McGriff. (GOVERNOR’S OFFICE PHOTO)

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Ivey shared that when she was a young intern for Gov. Lurleen Wallace, the only other woman to serve as governor in Alabama history, she had the opportunity to sit behind the governor’s desk. Ivey then asked Cate if she wanted to sit behind the desk, and they recreated the governor’s own photo behind Gov. Lurleen Wallace’s desk.

Cate and Ivey both were wearing their red “power suits” and Auburn face masks.

McGriff was joined by her parents and two siblings, Claire and Sam.

The McGriff family frequently tune in to the governor’s regular COVID press conferences. Cate also was given the chance to stand behind the lectern in the Old House Chamber.

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Governors frequently meet with very important people including presidents, CEOs, congressmen, senators, scientists, university presidents, state legislators, county commissioners, economic developers and fourth graders.

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