By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
There is no raise, but the rest is about what you’d expect.
The 2018 General Fund budget dropped Wednesday, as the House Ways and Means committee briefly debated and then passed it along to the full House for consideration.
That budget contained few surprises, and it deviated only slightly from a proposed budget Gov. Robert Bentley sent the Legislature in February.
There were three notable differences: Bentley’s 4-percent raise for State employees was gone, there was less money for Medicaid and there was nearly $100 million left over.
The leftover money, Rep. Steve Clouse, the committee chairman, said is being set aside in case of health care changes from the Republican Congress and Trump administration place a higher burden on states. The initial plan put forth by House Republicans in DC would shift a significant portion of Medicaid responsibility to states, and poorer states, like Alabama, would be particularly hard hit.
Clouse said he expects to be in a Special Session later this year discussing health care and Medicaid funding.
Even if there are no significant changes, Clouse said the savings are necessary to offset the loss of $105 million in BP oil spill money that’s currently serving to prop up the State’s General Fund.
The savings come primarily from cutting the 4-percent raise proposed by Bentley and slicing more than $40 million from Medicaid’s bill, leaving the agency at $701 million. A statement released by Medicaid later in the day said that agency could get by with the $40 million cut, because enrollment has not ticked up of late.
Rep. John Knight tried to save a portion of the employees’ raise by offering an amendment that would’ve provided State workers with a one-time, $1,600 bonus. That amendment was tabled by Clouse.
However, Clouse noted that there was a better than $9 million increase in funding for state employees’ and retirees’ health insurance.
Outside of Medicaid and the raise, however, most other agencies can expect to keep the same funding and a few picked up additional dollars. Most notably, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency got money to hire more troopers and the Forestry Commission got an $800,000 bump.
The total for the General Fund Budget heading to the House floor is $1.8 billion.