MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - We have a budget! This week both bodies of the Alabama Legislature overwhelmingly passed a budget for 2016. This is good news for state employees and state funded programs as the October 1st deadline was looming.
Things were accomplished over the past week. A moderate cigarette tax was passed. The tax still keeps Alabama well below the national average, yet will provide an estimated $70 million dollars in revenue.
Money that was earmarked for the Education Trust Fund was moved to the General Fund. That provided $80 million, although anyone in the education field in Alabama will tell you it was money that the Education Fund did not have to give.
In the end, programs and departments like Medicaid, Corrections, Mental Health and the court system will receive level funding from last year while many others will see cuts. When we started on this journey last February we were told by the governor that level funding for these already cash starved departments would not be acceptable.
With level funding we have some of the worst prison overcrowding problems in the country. With level funding Medicaid is at best a mess. With level funding the back logs in the court system are ridiculous. I could go on and on.
So, the good news is we have a budget. The bad news, after three legislative sessions – three…we still have many of the same obvious underfunding issues that we started with in February.
Perhaps, in the 2016 Legislative Session we will get the revenue systems to fix our state. I guess we will talk again then!