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Senate passes largest state General Fund budget in Alabama history

The Alabama Senate passed the state General Fund budget on Thursday. It now is in conference committee.

Then-Majority Leader Greg Reed presides over the Alabama Senate in 2018.

The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed the state General Fund budget. The fiscal year 2022 budget, which covers most non-education-related agencies, at $2,460,635,863, is the largest General Fund budget in state history.

House Bill 309, the General Fund budget bill, is sponsored by state Rep. Steve Clouse, a Republican who chairs the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee. Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee Chairman Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, carried the budget on the floor of the Senate.

The House voted to concur with the supplemental appropriation bill, House Bill 453, in a 94 to 0 vote.

Albritton said that the Legislature has worked aggressively this session to move a General Fund budget out of the Senate and House in a timely manner to give Alabamians and state agencies much-needed support.

“Coming on the heels of a global pandemic, this has been an unprecedented year as we have worked to put together a budget that meets the needs of Alabamians and provides our state with the resources needed to operate well on behalf of the people of Alabama,” Albritton said. “Given the increased urgency to consider and move budgets as we emerge from this pandemic, we have buckled our bootstraps and worked to swiftly move our budget out of the Legislature and to the governor’s desk.”

“This is a good budget that will put our state on a strong path forward towards a better future,” Albritton said. “I look forward to seeing the benefits that these carefully, conservatively appropriated dollars will bring to the people of our state.”

“We fully funded all aspects of government,” Albritton told reporters.

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Albritton said that the Legislature has emphasized mental health in the budget.

“For the last couple of years, we have been intending on increasing the resources for mental health,” Albritton said. “We are trying to work to increase the resources. We are trying to get the resources that need to be there.”

“We let mental health fall by the wayside; and we are trying to correct that,” Albritton told reporters.

Albritton said that the Legislature tries to “hold back money” that they anticipate coming in as an insurance policy if revenues drop.

“There is close to about $65 million in reserve range, depending on what revenues come in” in this budget, Albritton said.

Senate Pro Tempore Greg Reed, R-Jasper, commended Albritton on his diligent work on this budget and congratulated him on the broad support it has received from the Senate.

“While states around the country are having to cut budgets due to economic hardships resulting from this pandemic, Alabama has passed the largest General Fund Budget in state history,” Reed said. “This is a direct result of the conservative budgeting approach that our state has taken over the past several years and the resilience of Alabamians and our economy,” Reed said. “I commend Senator Albritton on his diligent work on this budget, and congratulate him on the broad support it has received from the Senate body.”

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Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville, is the Senate majority leader.

“Lawmakers have worked tirelessly this session on both the General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets, and I applaud our budget chairmen, Senators Albritton and Orr, for pushing these momentous budgets through the Senate,” said Scofield. “With the various challenges and hardships faced by the people of Alabama as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was high priority for the legislature to produce state budgets that supply the means necessary to continue moving our state forward and improving the quality of life for all Alabamians.”

HB309 passed out of the House of Representatives on March 9, 2021. The Senate substituted the House version of the budget on Friday and sent it back to the House for concurrence. Clouse said that there were a number of issues with the Senate version of the budget and urged the House to vote not to concur. The General Fund has been assigned to a conference committee.

Thursday was the 27th day of the 2021 Legislative Session. The Legislature has three days left for the conference committee to resolve the differences between the two chambers, pass the committee’s version in both chambers and then send the budget to the governor.

Alabama’s other budget, the Education Trust Fund budget, passed the House on Tuesday, and the Senate concurred on Thursday.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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