No budget, but GoFundMe account designed to help state coffers

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The clock expired on the Alabama legislature’s special session yesterday, and the state is not closer to having a General Fund budget than it was when the regular session ended in June.

The legislature needs to identify $200 million in new tax dollars – or make a minimum of the same amounts of cuts to state services – in order to pass a balanced General Fund budget, as is required by the state constitution.

They are so far from being able to do that, one legislature started an online fundraiser for the state.

Sen. Paul Sanford of Huntsville, a Republican, started the GoFundMe account called “Fund the Alabama State Government.” A restaurant owner, Sanford said he started the tongue-in-cheek account to highlight “hypocrisy” over tax increases. Sanford said people suggest tax increases but want someone else’s taxes raised, not their own.

The account has a fundraising goal of $300 million, about the same amount Alabama’s governor is seeking in tax increases. So far, he’s raised $598, which will do little to help legislators when Gov. Bentley calls them in for yet another special session, likely in September.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed a budget that had $156 million in cuts to Medicaid. Because the federal government matches state Medicaid dollars two-to-one, the budget would have meant $450 million in cuts to the program that helps fund hospital stays, doctors’ visits, nursing home residency, and mental health.

The Senate rejected that budget, and on Monday resurrected the General Fund budget approved by both houses in June and vetoed by the governor. That budget featured across-the-board cuts to the state agencies included in the budget – prisons, Medicaid, mental health, and public safety among them.

The House didn’t go along with that plan, and time ran out on the special session Tuesday.

Gov. Robert Bentley, speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, said the session was “a failure, and I am disappointed.”

“They have known about this issue, about this problem, for a number of months,” he said. “The first failure occurred in the regular session. We called them back in in the special session, and they failed to pass a budget.”

The governor said he will call a second special session. Bentley did not have a date for the session Tuesday afternoon, but said it would come before Oct. 1, the start of the 2016 fiscal year.