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General Fund Budget goes to a conference committee

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday the Alabama Senate approved the fiscal year 2020 state General Fund Budget.

The general fund budget funds all non-education state spending: including prisons, Medicaid, mental health, state law enforcement, forensics, courts, public health and dozens of other state agencies. All education funding meanwhile is in the education trust fund budget. Most states do not have this bizarre two budgets accounting system.
State Senator Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, is the Chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee.

“This budget funds the essential functions of state government and avoids any tax increases,” said Senator Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, Chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee. “We put a priority on public safety, with the increase for additional troopers on the road and more correctional officers at state prisons. We were able to fund everything that we needed to, but we didn’t spend every single dime available — that carryover money will help for next year, when the state will have to bear the entire burden for CHIPS, the health insurance program for children in low-income homes.”

“I want to thank Senator Albritton for his hard work — as this budget illustrates, Republicans in the State Legislature remain committed to fiscal discipline,” said Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper. “Since 2011, we have cut the state government workforce by 14%, saving taxpayers millions of dollars.”

Notable points includes: an additional $7 million for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to hire 50 new state troopers, increases to the Department of Corrections’ budget by $46 million to hire hundreds of new Corrections Officers, and a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for state employees.

The SGF went back to the House of Representatives late on Tuesday night. The House voted to non-concur with the changes that the Senate has made and go to a conference committee.

“I look forward to working with the House leadership on a final version,” Albritton said. “I anticipate there will be some as we negotiate later this week, but with this budget that passed today, I think we have hammered out an agreement on the biggest issues.”

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Also on Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Education Committee approved the education budget. The $7.1 billion education budget is the largest in the history of the state and includes money to expand the state’s award winning Pre-K program, more than a five percent increase in support for higher education institutions, and a four percent cost of living adjustment for education employees.

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The 2% cost-of-living-adjustment for state general fund employees is only the second that they have received since 2008.

The SGF is $2.1 billion.

Governor Ivey had asked for $36 million for the Children’s Health Insurance Program be paid in the ETF and the House version of the SGF did not include any of that funding, anticipating that that would be in the ETF. The ETF budget that passed the Senate did not include that funding, however the version that came out of the committee in the House Tuesday had $17.5 in funding for CHIP indicating that perhaps a compromise had been reached on the program which pays for the health insurance for almost half of the children in the state.

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