Lawmakers: FY2016 budget may be good foundation for next time

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DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT)-- The recently-signed general fund budget may not please everyone, and includes 3-5% cuts to many state agencies.

"It's not a good budget, it's not a perfect budget," bluntly commented Governor Robert Bentley Thursday.

"[It took] tough decisions, but eventually we did the best we could do," said Senator Arthur Orr, Chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee.

It took lawmakers two special sessions to come up with this budget, and we're only months away from the next Legislative session - the first Tuesday in February 2016 - when they'll have to tackle the budget situation once again.

Legislators say the work done this time could make it easier next time, though.

We asked Senator Orr about budget reforms, which were promised as part of a solution. He cites the $80 million use tax transfer and rolling reserve changes, as true reforms that will continue to push revenue to the General Fund and also provide for the Education Trust Fund.

"We had, you know, a huge $200 million shortfall," he said. "We haven't addressed it with one-time money. All the money in the budget is recurring, coming from recurring revenues."

He says that's something that could slow the accurate but, aguably, overused line "kicking the can down the road" that has been used to describe budget problems.

But Medicaid isn't cheap, and takes up a large chunk of the funding allocations, said Orr. He explained that if it continues to grow and gobble up funds, we could possibly end up in a similar shortfall situation.

"There is a real frustration with the cost of Medicaid," commented Orr, "but it is the backbone of our health care system... If Medicaid spending is contained, that makes the budget situation much more manageable."

Overall, the budget was agreeable enough to get past the legislature and governor. A new effort begins in February's session.

"We still have a long way to go to continue to fundamentally change," said Governor Bentley about his call for a budget that fundamentally changes the way we fund state government, "but we're going in the right direction."