Senate budget winners and losers

Posted by Max Reiss – bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) – Alabama's proposed budget passed by the state Senate is by and large very similar to the one proposed by Governor Robert Bentley.

The Alabama Senate passed the state budget in quick time Thursday. It was only the 12th legislative day of 2011 Regular Session.

All told, the General Fund, which provides appropriations for all non-education entities for the 2012 fiscal year will be a $1.76 billion fund.

Several agencies were requested to be protected by Gov. Bentley and those included Medicaid, the Department of Corrections, Pardons and Paroles, and the Ethics Commission.

Medicaid and Corrections received some of the largest amounts of additional appropriations because each was propped up by large one-time injections of Federal Stimulus funds.

Alabama's Medicaid Agency will receive an additional $247 million for the 2012 fiscal year while Corrections will receive an extra $62.6 million.

On cuts, the Senate version of the General Fund Budget eliminates at least 186 line-items from the budget completely. Those agencies received zero appropriations compared to FY 2011.

The two agencies that will receive some of the most substantial cuts are the Judiciary and the Department of Public Health.

Alabama's Chief Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb announced last month that the department would have to layoff around 150 workers. For the next budget, the Judicial Department will receive an 18% cut which equates to a $26 million decrease in appropriations.

The Department of Public Health is receiving perhaps one of the largest cuts of all state agencies. The Senate voted to slice the department's budget by 37%, or $34 million overall.

Some of the other changes to the budgets were several additions that were either not appropriated for 2011 or were omitted from Governor Bentley's proposal.

Among them was restoring $970,000 for Regional Planning Commissions which is a part of the Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The governor had previously appropriated zero funds for that division.

The Senate also appropriated $1.5 million for Water Wars legal fees having to do with the state's ongoing battle with Georgia and Florida for drinking water along the Chattahoochee River.

The budget also sets aside $287,000 in order to keep the state's farmer's market open.

Children's Advocacy Centers receive some protection from budget cuts with $669,000 for the next fiscal year.

The budget is now in the hands of the Alabama House of Representatives which isn't expected to move that budget for some time. Members of the House will debate the Education Trust Fund this week with hopes to move it to the Senate.

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