The Alabama Road Builder - Fall 2015 - (Page 7)

executive director's message As One Special Session Ends, Another Looms in the Future A By Tom Layfield ARBA Executive Director Ultimately, the House and Senate were unable to agree on any form of the General Fund, and they adjourned the session without sending a budget to Bentley for consideration. The Alabama Roadbuilder * Fall 2015 fter meeting for eight days in an attempt to resolve an over $200 million shortfall in the state's General Fund budget, which appropriates funding for non-education state agencies, the Alabama Legislature adjourned its special session this week without finding an agreement on the spending plan or the revenues needed to fund it. The inaction among lawmakers will force Gov. Bentley to convene another special session prior to the start of the 2016 fiscal year, which begins October 1. Included in the call for the recently adjourned session were roughly $300 million in new taxes that Bentley said are needed in order to fund agencies like Medicaid, Department of Corrections, Public Health Service, law enforcement and others, but his proposals found little support in either house. It was thought that a proposed 25 cents per pack tax on cigarettes had the best chance of achieving final passage, but it failed to clear even its first hurdle in the House Ways & Means General Fund Committee, which voted it down by an eight to seven margin. The bill, which would have increased the cigarette tax from 42.5 cents to 67.5  cents, would have raised about $66 million for the General Fund. According to the Alabama Constitution, revenue measures must originate in the House, but once the cigarette tax failed, all other proposed levies were taken off the table by lawmakers. Once it appeared that no new revenues would be forthcoming, House General Fund budget chairman Steve Clouse (R - Ozark) moved to cut funding for the state's Medicaid agency, which takes up more than one-third of all non-education revenues, by $156 million. His motion was intended to put political pressure on committee Democrats who voted against the cigarette tax and Republican members who remained reluctant to raise any revenues. Because hospitals, especially those in rural areas, depend upon Medicaid funding to remain solvent and because many elderly individuals utilize nursing home care funded by the program, legislative phones and email accounts were busy receiving public comments in response. The Senate, at the urging of Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee Chairman Arthur Orr (R - Decatur), voted on Monday to restore the Medicaid funding. But without accompanying revenues, the panel was forced to slash appropriations for every other state agency, which proved equally unacceptable. Ultimately, the House and Senate were unable to agree on any form of the General Fund, and they adjourned the session without sending a budget to Bentley for consideration. "The Legislature was unable to do what their only job is, and that is to pass the budget," Bentley said in reaction during a hastily called news conference on the Capitol steps. "That is the reason they were called in, and they failed." The governor also said he remains committed to his $300 million tax increase proposal and will resubmit the plan to legislators when he summons them back to Montgomery in the coming weeks. Bentley restated his opposition to a Senate plan that would allow a referendum vote on bringing both Vegasstyle casino gambling and a lottery to Alabama. He added that the proposal would do nothing to solve the fiscal crisis before the October 1 deadline. With Bentley pursuing his plan, Senate Pro-Tem Del Marsh pursuing gambling, the Black Caucus wanting to pass the lottery and the House needing more assurances that they will not get hung out to dry having to pass revenue measures first, the next special session may meet the same fate as the first. ❏ 7

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Alabama Road Builder - Fall 2015

Executive Director's Message
President's Message
ARBA Convention 2015 Highlights
The Costs of Sound Safety Performance
Senate Passes Long-Term Transportation Bill
Moving Forward With the Northern Beltline
Products and Services Marketplace
Index to Advertiers/
Heard Along the Highway

The Alabama Road Builder - Fall 2015