By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), released a written statement regarding the conclusion of the Special Session, which ended with the House rejecting the Senate’s austere budget proposal.
Sen. Marsh said, “In this Special Session, the Senate was able to use common sense conservative budgeting to find over $30 million in savings, and, once again, passed a General Fund budget, as is our Constitutional responsibility. There is no question that the budget was austere, however, it forced State government to live within its means with the money it has – just like families in this State do every day.”
Sen. Marsh continued, “I sincerely hope that the Governor will meet with legislators to help build a consensus on the issues facing the General Fund that are acceptable to both the Legislature and the Governor, before calling us back for another session.”
Sen. Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville) wrote on Facebook, “Alabama State Budget = $28 Billion Estimated Budget Shortfall = $200 Million or less than 1% of our entire State Budget So a 1 percent adjustment equals a Crisis, really? Looks like we need to prioritize and move some money around not increase taxes. A good CEO would manage a 1 percent decline in revenues.”
Sen. Phil Williams said on Facebook, “I still say no new taxes.” Williams told Yellowhammer News that there is plenty money to level fund all of State government at 2015 levels without raising taxes. Williams called it, “Infuriating” that Alabama’s “dysfunctional” budgeting laws prevent the state from moving funds around to accommodate the shortfall.
The State needs a projected additional $198 million in the State General Fund (SGF) to fully fund General Fund services without implementing any deep cuts. To do that, and fully implement ambitious prison, and Medicaid reforms, the SGF probably needs about $220 million. According to State budget projections, the State actually already has that money.
Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) told North Alabama talk radio host Dale Jackson that there will be an estimated $110 million in the stabilization fund on October 1, and that is expected to grow to $350 million by September 30, 2016.
Senator Del Marsh has proposed moving $220 million of use tax from the Education Trust Fund (ETF) to the SGF. The stabilization fund is simply a reserve account in case tax projections fall short of what is anticipated.
Education advocates, led by State Schools Superintendent, Tommy Bice, have staunchly opposed moving the use tax without replacing those revenues in the ETF. Sen. Marsh told reporters during the session that there is no need to backfill that money because it will be replaced naturally by the growing economy (all income taxes are earmarked for education already).
Superintendent Bice warns that moving that much revenue could lead to proration in the ETF. Proponents of simply transferring the money from one fund to the other respond that if there is any sign of a shortfall the legislature can come back in the regular session and replace those revenues with a hike in the tobacco taxes and/or a beverage tax if (and only if) there is shown to be a need.
Long term Sen. Marsh would like to grow state revenues by implementing a state lottery and legalizing class III gaming at a limited number of facilities around the State.
Gov. Bentley supports moving the use taxes to the SGF, but insists on replacing that revenue in the ETF. Bentley has called the current budget crisis a, “Contest of wills.”
The legislature is expected to go back into Special Session on September 30, to try to pass a budget by the end of the month.