Legislature OKs BP plan, funds Medicaid

Published 2:21 am Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Alabama legislature on Wednesday approved a bill that uses the state’s share of the settlement over the 2010 BP Gulf oil spill to pay debts, free money for Medicaid and provide funding for road projects in Mobile and Baldwin counties.

The bill was overwhelmingly approved just before the legislature adjourned its special session, but without help from those who represent Covington County.

Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, was among the nine House members who voted against the bill.

“It needed to pass,” Jones said.

The legislation uses a single $639 million lump sum from BP. It uses $400 million of that to pay outstanding debts, which frees up money designated for debt service in the General Fund budget. Those savings, combined with money from Gov. Robert Bentley and $15 million given directly to the Medicaid program from the settlement, should leave the agency with the extra $85 million it says it needs to maintain services in 2017. The bill also allocates $105 million to the program in 2018.

Jones said he opposed the bill because it uses one-time money to fill a gap, but doesn’t solve the problem long-term.

Fully repaying the debts to state accounts, he said, would have generated interest which could have fueled the General Fund in the future.

“Doctors and hospitals should be pretty happy,” Jones said. “But this isn’t fixing it. We still have to work the problem.”

Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, did not vote on the Senate bill.