By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
It took nine hours on Tuesday for the Alabama House to pass the same budget it started with, and by the not-so-close margin of 72-28.
Your government at work.
Approval of the budget was held up by an all-afternoon (and most of the night) filibuster by Democrats, who were unhappy that Republicans had stripped from the budget a proposal to give State workers a 4-percent raise. It would have been their first raise in 10 years.
So, the day began with a two-hour filibuster over the special order calendar and continued with Democrat after Democrat – along with a few Montgomery-area Republicans – offering a variety of amendments that would’ve given workers at least some extra money.
Each time, Budget Chairman Steve Clouse politely shut them down.
“As much as I’d love to see (State employees) get the raise, we can’t afford it,” Clouse said to Rep. John Knight (D-Montgomery).
He repeated some version of that line to the entire Montgomery delegation, as they brought amendments proposing a 2-percent raise, a $1,600 one-time bonus, a $1,000 one-time bonus to those making under $80,000 and so on.
In the end, the budget that passed committee last week is essentially the budget that will go to the Senate.
Its highlights include level funding for most state agencies and a $97 million savings account to offset potential problems with health care costs from the Republican’s proposed health care plan and a shortfall next fiscal year from the loss of the one-time BP oil spill money.
House members were concerned about sending such a large surplus to the Senate, believing it was better to invest part of the money in State employees instead of allowing the Senate to utilize it for its various projects.
In the end, though, Clouse’s cautious budget won out.