By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter
A Senate committee passed a supplement to the General Fund Wednesday that appropriates an additional $30 million for the Department of Correction in their ongoing dilemma to raise standards of mental health and prisoner health care.
The Senate Committee on Taxation General Fund approved the measure yesterday after chairman state Sen. Tripp Pittman, R-Montrose, said committee members had worked through some technical problems with the bill.
This additional funding would be tacked on to the current fiscal year, which doesn’t end until Sept. 30. The Senate on Tuesday passed next year’s General Fund budget, which raised ADOC spending levels by $51 million.
Commissioner of Corrections Jeff Dunn said the money would help to address pressing issues in the department, including improving mental health facilities around the state.
Those facilities have come under judicial scrutiny after a federal judge ruled that they were not Constitutionally sufficient.
Dunn also said the money would start to address the staffing problem that prisons around Alabama face, underscoring a key part of Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan to fix prisons around the state.
Ivey, who laid out some of her plan in the State of the State address in January, said she hired multiple project managers around the state to fully study the prison problems in the state.
In her address, she did not mention her predecessor’s plan, which was to build new prisons using a bond authorized by the Legislature. Instead, she said her plan focused on infrastructure and staffing issues in prisons.
The same committee passed the General Fund budget last week that would raise spending to $2.2 billion, the largest since the Great Recession. On the Senate floor Tuesday, Pittman said the state would face a budget shortfall of $125 million.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed the General Fund but chose to not pass the pay raise approved by the Finance and Taxation Committee last week.
Pittman also said he had reservations about the pay raise at last week’s committee meeting citing that a permanent increase in spending worried him.