MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) – The Alabama Senate made quick work of the General Fund Budget and it passed earlier today.
"We are required to have a balanced state budget and that's what we have now" said Sen. Arthur Orr, (R – Decatur) who chairs the Senate's General Fund Budget Committee.
The Senate took several hours to the debate the appropriations bill Thursday. Many Democrats had questions about the budget because the version passed by the Senate was a substitute for the one that was voted out of committee Wednesday.
"We never had a chance to see it" said Sen. Rodger Smitherman, (D – Birmingham). "We would have liked to see the substitute. That's why I kept asking questions."
House and Senate leaders have said since the beginning of the legislative session that they had planned to move the budgets earlier than usual. Historically, the state's budget has been passed in the late stages of the session or not at all which resulted in a Special Session devoted to passing an operating budget.
The General Fund appropriates for all non-education entities.
Republicans say the process isn't rushing the budget through just that it is a different way of doing things. The GOP took control of the legislature for the first time in 136 years.
"If they have a schedule that's efficient, that's fine with me. We don't want to move too quickly and then we have to call a Special Session to address the things we missed," Smitherman said.
Orr, the budget chairman said the budget is "similar and comparable" to the one Governor Robert Bentley recommended at his State of the State address last month.
"We appropriated more funds for the Forestry Commission, the Department of Agriculture and Industries, and district attorneys across the state will receive more funds" Orr said.
Each of those agencies will receive around $2 million more than the governor initially appropriated.
No one doubts that the budgets are moving at a pace many in the legislature have never seen before.
The House is poised to debate the Education Trust Fund budget on Tuesday which is also earlier than it has been brought to the floor for debate in the past.