Budget cuts OK’d in House

Published 1:47 am Saturday, September 12, 2015

Rep. Mike Jones said he voted against a General Fund budget that cleared the Alabama House of Representatives on Friday.

The legislature currently is meeting in its second Special Session to address the General Fund budget.

The $1.8 billion budget, which is $74 million less than the current fiscal year budget, provides a $50 million increase for Medicaid, and a $16 million allocation for prison reform measures. The budget cuts mental health, public health and human resources, and the state court system each by 2.5 percent cuts. Other agencies, include state law enforcement, would be cut by 10 percent.

Jones said he voted against it for a simple reason – legislators were offered a substitute bill at the last minute and he had no time to read it.

“I had spent a lot of time reviewing the first budget,” he said. “It was a 114-page bill with 15 to 20 pages of spreadsheets. I had taken a lot of notes and had asked questions.”

At the last minute, a substitute was offered.

“I wouldn’t doubt Rep. Steve Clouse,” he said of the budget chairman. “But I’ve always made a commitment that unless I can read a bill, I can’t support it. So I voted against this budget. “

He also spoke against it twice.

Among his concerns, he said, was that the $16 million for prison reform was included as a second-tier conditional appropriation. First-tier allocations total $60 million.

“We don’t have the money for the first tier,” he said “This budget would undo prison reform.”

As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jones was one of the key sponsors of the prison reform plan and shepherded it through the House.

The version sent to the Senate on Friday depends upon five tax measures also approved by the House that do not yet have Senate approval, as well as a $50 million transfer of education funds.