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$265 million shortfall top priority for state lawmakers in upcoming session

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(WHNT) – State lawmakers are returning home from orientation this week, and the one item on everyone mind: the budget. The state is looking at a $265 million shortfall for the 2016 fiscal year.

“We’ve known it was going to be bad, perhaps we didn’t know how bad it was going to be,” said Senator Arthur Orr.

According to Orr, the $265 million shortfall is not taking into consideration the debts the state holds to the federal government, ALDOT, and the rainy day fund. If you calculate all of the state’s long-term debts plus the budget shortfall, that number comes in at more than $700 million.

Orr and fellow legislators have already started looking for ways to cut back, by scouring through the state tax code.

“[We’re] going back decades and looking at things that have been put in there through the years and asking the questions does this make sense in the 21st century,” said Orr. “In other words, if we had to do it over again would we give a credit or exemption or deduction to this particular industry or this particular area or not?”

Orr also plans to target billions in earmarked tax dollars, saying it creates a system of have and have-nots.

“We’ve tried to un-earmark dollars before and run into a lot of resistance. But that’s another area where the dollars are already there, we just need to get it from this agency back to another agency that has some needs and experienced cuts in years past.”

As  for raising taxes to make up for the shortfall? Orr says that idea isn’t even on the table.