By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, May 14, the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee passed a budget with no increases. In 2015, the General Fund Budget was $1,915,706,787. That number was vastly inflated by the 2012 raid on the Alabama Trust Fund. Those raided funds are now gone.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) asked for an incredible $2,300,000,000 in his 2016 budget request, but was also asking for a massive $541 million a year in tax increases on the people of Alabama, in order to pay for his expansion in the General Fund.
Last week, the House Ways &Means General Fund committee proposed their own, much more modest $125 million tax increase package. Those proposals ran into a buzz saw of criticism from the general public, and even their fellow legislators.
Many Senators said that if those tax increases ever passed the House they weren’t going anywhere in the Senate. On Tuesday, the House Rules Committee passed a new calendar without any of the tax increases. On Thursday, May 14, the House Ways and Means General Fund committee passed a new $1,635,317,996 General Fund that includes no revenue bills.
The new proposal scraps the Governor’s budget and instead, relies on enormous cuts to the funding levels in the 2015 budget.
The House Budget would:
Cut $10,867,667 in funding for the legislature
Cut $18,145,231 from the Judicial Branch.
Cut $2,166,698 from the Department of Agriculture and Industries
Cut corrections by $27,550,665
Cut the District Attorney’s office by $3,056,960
Cut Emergency Management by $324,648
Cut the Alabama Department of Environment Management by $2,036,281
Cut Forensic Sciences by $2,207,256
Cut the Forestry Commission by $1,548,365
Cut the Department of Public Health by $64,122,326 (most of this is achieved by abolishing the line item for the Chip program)
Cut the historical commission by $744,062
Cut Medicaid was cut $34,256,280
Cut Mental Health Services by $5,274,822 (down $59,243,706 from Bentley request)
The Leadership reportedly believes that new legislation increasing the federal portion of Chip means, that line item can be eliminated without affecting health insurance for children. Most of the cuts were 9 percent across the board, rather than targeting the cuts on a needs basis.
In 2015, the Education Trust Fund budget was $5,931,782,878. The Governor asked for $5,995,905,928 in 2016 Fiscal Year. The Senate passed a 2016 ETF budget of $5,991,157,629. The House Ways & Means Education Committee budget proposal is $5,990,905,929 for the 2016 fiscal year.
Gov. Bentley said in a recent statement:
“We are facing a tremendous crisis in our General Fund Budget that will impact every Alabama County if not addressed by the Alabama Legislature. I am committed to finding new revenue so our State agencies can continue to provide essential services to Alabamians. For decades, we have failed to address the way our non-education State agencies are funded. With no one-time money available to support the General Fund and debts that are owed, we have a real crisis on our hands.”
The Governor has been traveling around the State demanding that legislators give him a half a billion in new taxes. An angry Bentley said, “The General Fund budget passed by a House committee earlier today is not only irresponsible and unworkable, but it hurts hardworking Alabamians who rely on essential government services. I encourage the Legislature to work on a better, more responsible solution.”
Gov. Bentley has vowed to veto this budget if it comes to his desk. There are only 8 legislative days remaining in this session and the House still needs to address both budgets. Bentley is threatening to call multiple special sessions until he gets his tax increases.
Most Republican legislators were elected promising to downsize government and oppose any tax increases.