2016 Legislative Session begins Tuesday

Published: Feb. 2, 2016 at 12:54 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 10, 2016 at 2:03 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Alabama Legislature goes back in to session Tuesday, facing many of the same issues they faced last year. The budget will be the biggest struggle.

Again, the money coming in is expected to fall short of what's needed to maintain state services. Republicans have stood strongly against new taxes.

"First of all we're going to see what the revenue estimates say," says Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, Chairman of the Senate Education

Trust Fund Committee, formerly the head of the Senate's General Fund Budget Committee. "That will be the starting point of the discussion as to using our current revenues, what will they provide as far as state services and how can we appropriate those."

Democrats maintain expanding Medicaid would create extra cash flow Alabama needs, and they're proposing a property tax increase.

"We're going to look at some real solutions to the problems that we have in the state of Alabama," says Senate Minority Leader Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery. "Looking at increasing our property tax to get some very well needed revenues into the General Fund."

What's different this year, Governor Bentley is NOT proposing any tax increases. He says he'll leave the revenue to lawmakers.

"Because I have three years left in my administration and I have some major things that I want to get accomplished over the next three years and I am going to be pushing those things. I think the people of Alabama, when they hear them in our state of the state, they're going to be excited about what we're trying to do."

The Governor has other priorities, like expanding broadband in the state and increasing funding for Alabama's Pre-K program by $20 million.

A lottery could get its first serious look since Don Siegelman was Governor this year. Both Republicans and Democrats have put lottery bills on the table. The question will be where to spend the money it brings in.

"One bill, as I understand it, is a clean lottery. It just is an up or down vote for the people to say whether or not they want a lottery with the details to be determined later," says Sen. Orr.  "The other bill appropriates the money, I believe, to the education budget."

Alabamians voted down a lottery in 1999. Sen. Ross believes Alabamians feel differently now, and that the lottery is a part of a bigger issue.

"I think we have to deal with the whole issue of gaming and the lottery at one time. So Democrats will be putting forth a proposal to deal with the issue once and for all and give the people of the state of Alabama the right to decide the issue so we can move on."

The legislature convenes at Noon Tuesday. The Governor will deliver his State of the State address at 6:30 p.m.
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