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AL budget battle looms as legislative session approaches

Published: Jan. 15, 2016 at 10:05 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 23, 2016 at 11:20 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - After a week of preliminary budget hearings, next year's budget is looking a bleak as state departments requested more than $200 million in additional revenue. Lawmakers said this week they did not expect taxes to be on the table, so either the agencies are not getting more cash, or drastic cuts may be on the way.

Three state agencies,  ALEA, Corrections, and Medicaid requested a total of $198.5 million from lawmakers. However, the likelihood of those agencies seeing that money is not great.

Thursday, lawmakers grilled ALEA Secretary Spencer Collier after he requested $23.5 million in additional revenue. After two and a half hours of questions, Collier left pessimistic, saying he thought more cuts would be coming.

The biggest price tag for lawmakers looks to be Medicaid. Stephanie Azar, Alabama's Medicaid commissioner requested $157 million dollars. Azar said if Medicaid did not see at least close to that amount it could threaten the organization as a whole and the organization's "transformation."

Alabama's Medicaid agency is hoping to transition into a system of Regional Care Organizations. While the transition is supposed to save money for the state in the long run, it will require start up money.

Sen Arthur Orr (R-Huntsville) said the budget looks like it will be another train wreck. According to Orr, the state just doesn't have enough money to increase spending. Orr said it looked like lawmakers would be heading to another August of twiddling their thumbs, wondering what to do.

Budget meetings will begin in a couple of weeks on Feb. 3.

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