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Gov. Ivey says “Budgets are strong”

Direction of United States financial concept, compass on US Dollar banknotes using as leadership of country guidance after government shutdown.

During a recent presser, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey spoke briefly about the possibility of a state lottery. In usual fashion, she committed to letting the people vote but stopped far short of saying she personally supported a lottery. As reported by’s John Sharpe, Ivey said, “If people want to vote, that is fine.”

Gov. Ivey followed that remark according to Sharpe saying,”Our budgets are strong. We are able to do what we need to do. Alabama is at work, we are working, and it’s working.”

In response to Alabama Political Reporter’s request for clarification on Gov. Ivey’s comments, her office said that she was referring to the State General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets.

“Governor Ivey believes that our state’s General Fund and Education Trust Fund are strong,” said spokesperson Daniel Sparkman. “That is based on the Evidenced Based Budgeting pilot program that is being used in some state agencies right now.”

Evidenced Based Budgeting took hold on the federal level in 2012, with a directive from then-President Barack Obama’s Office of Management and Budget.

“Agencies should demonstrate the use of evidence throughout their Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 budget submissions. Budget submissions also should include a separate section on agencies’ most innovative uses of evidence and evaluation,” the May 18, 2012, directive read. “Many potential strategies have little immediate cost, and the Budget is more likely to fund requests that demonstrate a commitment to developing and using evidence. The Budget also will allocate limited resources for initiatives to expand the use of evidence.”

Likewise, Gov. Ivey’s Office said she, “is committed to ensuring that state resources are being spent in the right way and that a thorough review of where funds are spent is conducted. And that the strength of the budget is a direct reflection of the good economy and her success in attracting new jobs to Alabama.”

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A 2014 report by the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative outlined the first comprehensive framework for policymakers to follow in building a system of evidence-based governing.

The report presents five key components to implementing evidence-based policymaking:

  • Program assessment. Systematically reviewing available evidence on the effectiveness of public programs.
  • Budget development. Incorporating evidence of program effectiveness into budget and policy decisions, giving funding priority to programs that deliver a high return on investment of public funds.
  • Implementation oversight. Ensuring that programs are effectively delivered and are faithful to their intended design.
  • Outcome monitoring. Routinely measuring and reporting outcome data to determine whether interventions are achieving desired results.
  • Targeted evaluation. Conducting rigorous evaluations of new and untested programs to ensure that they warrant continued funding.

A report by The Business of Federal Technology also found that on the same day in May 2012, the Obama Administration issued a second memo which pertained to, “the higher-level budgeting approach OMB wants agencies to take, with evidence-based budgeting fit into the larger context, part of an effort to cut the federal deficit with reduced spending.”

The memo reads, “Unless your agency has received different guidance from OMB, your overall agency request for 2014 should be 5 percent below the net discretionary total provided for your agency for 2014 in the 2013 Budget.”

Since the Republican takeover in 2010, there has been a push to cut government spending and Ivey’s adoption of an Evidenced Based Budgeting pilot program is another step that is more evolutionary than revolutionary.

But how this justifies Gov. Ivey’s statement that “Our budgets (plural) are strong,” remains a mystery.

The State’s General Fund Budget provides money for all of Alabama’s non-education agencies and programs, including Medicaid, is $1.8-billion for the fiscal year 2019.

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The General Fund Budget level-funded most state’s agencies during the 2017 Legislative Session. But level-funding was only possible by using money taken from BP Oil Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill settlement.

Republican Senate General Fund Budget Chair Trip Pittman last legislative session predicted the state’s General Fund budget for the next fiscal year would be at least $300,000,000 in the red.

If the state continues to experience its current revenue growth, that number may be cut in half.

The Education Trust Fund Budget for the fiscal year 2019 is $6.63 billion in total appropriations and is the largest education trust budget in over ten years. But schools are still underfunded according to all reports and remain at the bottom of national rankings.

Ivey Democrat rival Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox says her statement about the budgets is another example of the Governor being out of touch. Ivey’s office says it’s about budgeting, not the budgets.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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