Gov. Bentley calls BP oil settlement bill 'great victory', promises to sign it
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama's Senate passed a bill Wednesday afternoon regarding funds from the BP oil spill settlement by a vote of 22-8. The move provides last second funding to the state's Medicaid program, which was staring at an $85 million budget shortfall.
The measure now goes to Gov. Robert Bentley for approval, who called the bill "bipartisan" and added that it was a "great victory". He promised to sign the bill into law.
Here's how the bill breaks down the $1 billion that Alabama received in the BP settlement:
- $400 million will go toward paying off state debts in the Rainy Day fund and the Alabama Trust Fund.
- $120 million will go toward state road projects in Mobile and Baldwin counties.
- $120 million will go toward Medicaid over the next two years. $15 million will go toward Medicaid this year, along with $70 million freed up through debt repayment. That will fund the program's $85 million shortfall that was projected for this year.
- $105 million has been set aside for Fiscal Year 2018 budget where the shortfall was projected before this bill to be around $165 million.
Gov. Bentley is reacting to the legislation at this time. We'll update this story with more of his reaction shortly.
"They should look at the legislature...," said House Speaker Mac McCutcheon. "Tit they didn't rush into anything with this bill. I think that is one thing that is very important. They didn't rush in and pass something very quickly. This took some time and took a lot of work. So that's something they can take away."
Rep. Craig Ford, the Minority Leader issued this statement:
"While this special legislative session did succeed in passing the BP bill, the legislature still failed to let the people vote on a lottery – which was the whole point of the special session in the first place. I will never understand why some legislators are afraid of democracy. They trust the voters to elect them, but not to vote on whether they want a lottery or casinos. Getting the BP bill passed was a small miracle, but it's a shame that the legislature will continue to deny the people their right to vote."
The Alabama Medical Association also praised the bill's passage:
"Alabama already runs the most bare-bones Medicaid program in the country," said Medical Association of the State of Alabama Executive Director Mark Jackson. "Without this additional funding, the cuts that Medicaid had implemented beginning Aug. 1, would have been dangerous to the infrastructure our state's health care system. This additional funding will provide some stability to the system which covers more than half the births in Alabama, 47 percent of our children, and 60 percent of our nursing home residents."
Following Senate approval, the body adjourned, bringing an end to the special session called by Gov. Bentley to discuss a state constitutional amendment to create a lottery system.
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