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Budget negotiations stress session’s final days

May 30, 2019

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Lawmakers hope to reach an agreement on the general fund budget Thursday following what some described as tense negotiations that have strained the closing days of the legislative session.

“I don’t want to downplay it. This was not necessarily fun times,” said Sen. Greg Albritton, chairman of the Senate budget-writing committee.

The major sticking point between the House and Senate is the fate of $35 million in road and bridge funds that has been used to fund the state court system. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said many representatives believe strongly that money should go back to the Department of Transportation.

McCutcheon said representatives had promised constituents they would end the diversion of road funds when they voted for a gasoline tax increase earlier this year.

“When we were debating the infrastructure bill many of the members went back to their districts and they told people that’s what they were going to do,” McCutcheon said. “We felt like this was something we said we would do, and we felt like we needed to stick with that.”

Albritton said it is legally appropriate to use that money for other state needs. He said the money was originally sent to the courts because “we didn’t have funding sources to fund the courts.”

Albritton said the state is facing pressing needs in prisons and Medicaid over the next several years, and he is concerned about any loss to the general fund budget.

However, both Albritton and McCutcheon hoped they are close to an agreement.

“I think we are pretty close. We hope to be able to finish this out sometime tomorrow,” Albritton said.

Another sticking point has been which state budget — the state general fund or the education budget — will pay for the state’s share of costs for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The program provides subsidized health insurance for children in working families.

Lawmakers hope to end the session on Thursday.

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