Alabama Senate approves state budget

(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Senate lawmakers approved a state budget late Thursday, but problems still exist for funding the state's biggest agency.

The bare bones budget has most programs with level funding or with small cuts. However, it leaves Medicaid more than $100 million short of what it needs.

The Alabama Medicaid Agency said it needed $100 million to keep up with current services and transition into a system of regional care organizations.

This transition has been ongoing for three years and was set to take effect later this year. Last year, the state spent $40 million to help set up the program.

Then a couple of weeks ago, the state received a federal wavier that would bring more than $700 million into the state.

However, all that will go away if the state doesn't fund it.

The Senate budget chair, Trip Pittman, hopes the current budget will spark debate on how to find money for Medicaid. Right now there is no clear choice as lawmakers seem unwilling to raise taxes or transfer money from education.

The bill will now move on to the House.

Senate lawmakers also passed a uniform minimum wage bill, which will require one state wide uniform wage. Gov. Robert Bentley signed the bill and it is now law. The law will prevent local governments, like the Birmingham City Council, from raising their area's minimum wage.

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