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Bentley promises to veto budget

Promising to veto an austerity General Fund budget approved by a House committee Thursday if it makes it to his desk, Gov. Robert Bentley said, “hope springs eternal” that the legislature will find a way to fund state operations.

However, he said, it’s likely he’ll have to call the legislature back into special session this summer to address the more than $200 million shortfall in the budget.

The legislature has eight meeting days left in its regular session – about a month, since it generally convenes two days per week. However, there are

fewer days for revenue proposals, as Alabama’s Constitution forbids the Legislature from approving any new revenue after the 25th day of the session, which should be Tues., May 26.

“Let’s don’t give on up on it until days totally been exhausted,” Bentley said in a press conference in which he called the proposed budget irresponsible and unworkable, and said it would “hurt Alabamians.”

The House of Representatives was considering several tax measures until the Senate sent a message that it wouldn’t entertain them if passed.

As a result, the House Ways and Means General Fund committee approved a $1.64 billion budget that slashes state agencies by $204.16 million.

The cuts are said to reflect state spending only. Many agencies’ matching federal dollars would be affected by the cuts:

•Medicaid: $34.2 million (cut of five percent)

•Corrections: $19.7 million (cut of five percent)

•Mental Health: $5.2 million (cut of five percent)

•Courts: $15.8 million (cut of 14 percent)

•Human Resources: $12.3 million (cut 21 percent)

Meanwhile, a Senate committee approved a bill proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) that would move gambling forward as a means to fund government. Marsh’s proposed bill calls for a constitutional amendment to go before voters in September. If approved, it would authorize the creation of a lottery and allow casino-type gambling at VictoryLand in Macon County; Greenetrack in Greene County; Mobile Greyhound Park; and the Birmingham Race Course.