State budgets better, but session may loom

Published 1:13 am Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The state’s 2016-17 budgets are greatly improved over recent years, but legislators could still find themselves back in Montgomery before the budgets actually take effect.

Sen. Jimmy Holley told the dozen people who attended a town hall meeting he and Rep. Mike Jones held last night in Florala that the budgets are the best since 2008.

“We all know what happened that year,” he said. “The economy tanked and so did our budgets. We’ve been swimming upstream to recover from the downturn in the state’s economy since that time.

This year’s budget includes a 4 percent increase in salaries for all education personnel earning less than $75,000, and a 2 percent increase for all other education employees, he said.

“Alabama has been visionary in one area, and that is to continue to build and fund a Pre-K program. Again this year, we increased that program by $16 million,” Holley said.

The General Fund level-funded most state agencies, he said, with slight increases to Medicaid, corrections and public health.

“The General Fund is still $85 million short of what most experts say is necessary to fund Medicaid in the State of Alabama,” he said.

Quizzed about the potential for doctors to leave the state if the agency is not funded, Holley said the threat is real.

“These are not just scare tactics,” he said. “We are losing a lot of medical professionals because of that possibility that we get into the new fiscal year without the funding. We can’t do that. We’ve invested a lot of our resources in our state for those students to come and graduate.”

Jones said there is a good chance the legislature will convene in special session in August or September to address Medicaid funding.