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Bentley Vetoes Budget: Turning This Into A Real Crisis

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Thursday, June 4, the Alabama Senate finally passed the State General Fund budget (SGF). Thursday was day 29 of the legislative session and under the 1901 Alabama Constitution there are only 30 legislative days allowed in the session. The Senate and the House both went into the day with one legislative day left. The Senate had inexplicably delayed passing a General Fund Budget until day 29 legislative day; but it finally did actually perform its constitutional duty and pass HB135 the General Fund Budget, but however amendments to it.

Sen. Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) said on his blog, “The Senate slowed to a crawl last week, entering a deadlock of wills as opposing views on how to solve the perennial budget crisis spilled over and impacted other pending legislation – collateral damage if you will. That posture continued into this week and the Senate adjourned Sine Die today after passing the General Fund Budget.”

The House then passed that budget. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) said in a statement, “This General Fund Budget is unworkable & does not adequately fund the essential services of gov’t. I have vetoed the budget.”

The House then over rode the veto threat; but the Senate called Sine Die and left town.  This effectively killed any attempt to override the veto, meaning the state has no 2016 fiscal year budget now.

As State Representative Christopher John England (D-Tuscaloosa) explained on Facebook, “The Governor has already vetoed the General Fund Budget. The House has voted to override the veto. However, since the Senate has adjourned, the Budget dies in the Legislature, specifically in the Senate.”

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Governor Bentley told ABC33/40’s Lauren Walsh, “Well this budget is unacceptable and its unworkable and it will hurt the people of Alabama. It hurts everyone.”

Everyone knew that Bentley was threatening to veto any budget that did not give him his $541 million draconian tax increase package so there was no reason not to hold that 30th day in reserve in order to come back and override the Governor’s veto. Governor Bentley would still have called a special session; but the legislature would have been able to negotiate from a position of strength with a budget already passed.

Bentley told Ms. Walsh, “We are down approximately $285 million that’s not counting all the money we owe,”

The Doctor turned Governor said that he wants to solve this problem long term. Bentley said that his goal is to bring everyone together, Republicans, Democrats, Blacks, Whites, legislators, and the business community in order to work out a truly workable solution.

The Governor told Ms. Walsh, “We will have a special session I am just not going to say yet when that will happen.”

Bentley warned that if the state had to enter FY 2016 with just the $1.62 billion General Fund Budget then our prison system will go from 185 percent capacity to 225 percent, the courts will be affected, many parks will be closed, and people who use state mental health services will suffer.

Bentley predicted that everyone will be affected across the state if SGF agencies were forced to make the cuts called for in the budget plan passed by the legislature.

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Senate President Del Marsh (R from Anniston) told ABC 33/40’s Ms. Walsh that without public outcry he does not expect the budget to change.

Sen. Holtzclaw wrote, “While I support continuing to work through the budget issues I’m left pondering what will change in the weeks ahead? Are we going to see an unexpected windfall from somewhere that will solve the budget problem? Are we going to see widespread support for tax increases? Hopefully we will finally address the foundational problems of our state budgets.”

Many conservatives across Alabama claim that they voted for Republicans in November because the party of Reagan was promising smaller government and because GOP candidates promised no tax increases.  To this point Bentley has been unable to convince the people of Alabama that they are undertaxed and need to pay more to their state government. Thursday’s veto gives Gov. Bentley more time to lobby legislators for increased taxes; but he has been making this same argument since February and it hasn’t motivated legislators who never brought any part of Governor Bentley’s plan to the floor of either House.


Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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