Madison County (WHNT) – The Alabama Legislature came out of the regular session without a General Fund budget. There has been one special session but still no General Fund budget and one is required before the start of the next fiscal year in October. Rep. Mac McCutcheon stopped by WHNT News 19 this week to give his perspective on where the legislature stands after the special session ended.
The legislature has been dead-locked for weeks on the budget issue. Governor Bentley had a plan that included more than 300 million in tax hikes but that budget plan was voted down. “At one point Bentley had 540 something million dollars proposed in revenue.” McCutcheon explains. “And of course the governor’s looking at paying off some revenue and moving and transferring some money from the General Fund to to the transportation department, which is close to 64 million dollars by itself. And he’s also trying to generate enough revenue to make the general fund whole, by itself without moving any money out of the education budget. We took half of the two thousand, the last quadrennium that we had. We worked very hard to fix the education budget, and it’s fixed. We’ve got money there. We’re secure in that fund. We have not been in proration, so now we’re at the point with that money sitting there, some of the senators are saying that’s extra money. It is a savings account, and in that is the question, can anyone look into a crystal ball over the next year and say we’re not going to have any bad times. And when 2007, 2008 rolled around in one point we had a 13 percent growth in our state, and then next year we were looking at a one to two percent negative balance, and education was constantly in proration. So, I think many of us who went through that are looking back and saying we have fixed the education budget. Let’s not just take money from it. Some people use the word raid, some people use the word rob. But I’m just saying there’s money there for savings and if we take that money out, then is that just going to be a quick fix and are we just going to continue to do that down the road? Let’s fix this permanently.”
The legislature proposed a budget but it was vetoed by the governor that would have cut the general fund budget by 185-million dollars, which would have meant cuts to multiple agencies during the regular session. A similar budget was proposed again during the special session. “It would have been similar to the point that the cuts would have been there, but if you remember that budget had what are called conditionals in it when it was sent up.” says McCutcheon. “And those conditionals made up the negatives for what we call the top priority agencies which include DHR, Corrections, Courts, Public Health, and Medicaid. Those were agencies that we were trying to fund at least at the same levels we did the previous year. The rest of those agencies would have had cuts. But when you look at, let’s just say mental health, that’s one of the agencies at the top. Mental health over the last four years has taken close to a 30-percent cut. So if you turn around and cut them another 15-percent on top of that then over the last five years that agency has taken almost a 50-percent cut. Now with that their number of patients have grown over the last five years. So, we’re in a real dilemma here, and it’s all coming down. We’ve got two things that are causing us problems. One we have a desperate need for budget reform to fix a general fund that’s broken. The other thing is that we’ve got between now and October one to keep these agencies open and operating, and when look at medicaid and we look at DHR, the Federal grant moneys that are matched with some of the money that the state puts up. It could really be hard for the services of the people.”
View our entire conversation in three parts with Rep Mac McCutcheon here: