Governor Bob Riley
Baxley warns more budget cuts ahead October 3rd
Lieutenant Governor Lucy Baxley says Alabama's budget crisis will worsen in February when the Legislature returns in regular session to pass budgets for the 2004-05 fiscal year.
Speaking in Huntsville to the Madison County Democratic Women's Division, Baxley says it's going to be "far worse" than the general fund and education budgets the Legislature approved last month.
Baxley predicts Alabamians' "hue and cry" arising from the prospect of even more spending cuts next year will lead to "all kinds of ideas" when lawmakers get back in February.
Many key Democrats and several former lieutenant governors publicly endorsed Governor Riley's failed tax plan, but Baxley didn't.
Baxley said yesterday (Thursday) she had doubts about the plan's
package of tax increases even though the predicted budget shortfall
this year was $675 million.
However, Baxley said she didn't voice those doubts because she knew the state needed more revenue.
Highlights of state budgets September 26th
Highlights of the $1.2 billion General Fund budget for fiscal 2004:
Highlights of the $4.2 billion education budget for fiscal 2004:
Alabama ready to accelerate paroles September 25th
The Alabama Legislature gave its approval yesterday (Wednesday) for the early release of thousands of prisoners and the addition of more former felons to Alabama's voting rolls.
The accelerated parole and felon voting rights legislation passed the Senate on a 21-to-11 vote after clearing the House 47-to-42 on Monday. The bill now goes to the governor, who plans to sign it into law.
The bill -- a direct result of Alabama's budget problems -- would expand Alabama's parole board from three to seven members. That would allow the board to handle more cases and comply with Governor Bob Riley's goal of releasing at least 5,000 additional nonviolent prisoners in the next year.
Riley said that after Alabama voters rejected his multi billion dollar tax plan, the state can no longer afford to house 28,000 prisoners, including nearly 2,000 in private prisons in Mississippi and Louisiana.
Riley vetoed a similar felon voting rights bill in June.
Representative Yvonne Kennedy of Mobile said the new process will help former felons return to community life quicker and reduce the likelihood for new crimes.
Some conservatives say the push to get former felons on the voting roles is misguided.
Committee vows to crackdown on state contracts September 25th
With schools and state programs facing budget cuts, members of the Legislature's Contract Review Committee shook their heads when asked to approve 290 contracts worth more than $56 million.
Committee members today asked a room full of representatives from state agencies if they understood that lawmakers are having to cut millions of dollars from state budgets.
Senator Rodger Smitherman of Birmingham says state agencies will have to do some of the work themselves and won't be able to farm it out to private contractors.
Committee members followed up the warning by voting to delay 37 of the contracts.
The Contract Review Committee reviews all state contracts and can hold up a contract for 45 days.
House passes $4.2 billion education budget September 25th
The Alabama House has passed a trimmed down $4.2 billion education budget.
The budget cuts most money for textbooks and eliminates all funds for legislators' special projects in their districts.
The House voted 74 to 24 to approve the education budget. The House made a few mostly cosmetic changes to the version of the spending plan that passed the Senate yesterday. The bill now goes back to the Senate, which can accept the changes made in the House or send the budget to a House-Senate conference committee.
Several lawmakers complained about removing the money for lawmakers' special projects from the budget.
Representative Craig Ford of Gadsden said he had used some of his money to help fund a kindergarten class at a school in his district.
State Senate working on education budget September 18th
The Alabama Senate is working on the state education budget today -- with less than two weeks to go before the state's new fiscal year begins.
The Senate is divided over how to handle non-state programs that receive state funds, including museums, arts groups and children's hospitals in Birmingham and Mobile. Governor Riley proposed eliminating them from the four-point-two (b) billion dollar budget. The Senate budget committee decided to give them one-fourth of the funding that they received this year. Committee Chairman Hank Sanders says that will give them enough to get by while they seek more donations and local funds.
State Senator Bradley Byrne of Fairhope says the non-state programs do good work, but the Legislature shouldn't be giving them money in a budget that doesn't provide any money for new textbooks or computers.
Debate on the education budget continues this afternoon.
Alabama governor breaking traditions on budgets September 16th
Alabama tradition calls for new state budgets to be bigger than the ones they replace, but Republican Bob Riley is breaking that tradition, and many others, in his first year as governor.
Riley opened a special session of the Legislature Monday by proposing cut-to-the-bone budgets that provide no money for textbooks, classroom computers or college aid and eliminate funding to scores of programs held dear by legislators.
The budget slashing follows voters' overwhelming rejection of his multi billion dollar tax plan to deal with red ink.
Elbert Peters of Huntsville, former chairman of the Alabama Republican Party and a critic of Riley's tax plan, said the governor is underestimating tax collections for the new fiscal year and inflicting more pain than necessary.
Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley said some legislators are already working on bills to restore some of the cuts proposed by Riley.
One of the biggest fights in the special session may come over the Republican governor's plan to eliminate the $11 million that legislators get to hand out to pet projects of their choosing.
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