Alabama lawmakers debate general fund, education trust fund

Time is running out in Alabama's regular legislative session and lawmakers still haven't passed the state's two budgets, something that's required by law.
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 8:45 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Time is running out in Alabama’s regular legislative session, and lawmakers still haven’t passed the state’s two budgets, which is required by law.

Both the general fund budget and the education budget are record-breaking in size this year, and lawmakers can’t agree on how to allocate that money. The education trust fund is nearly $9 billion and the general fund that pays for everything else is at $3 billion.

Each lawmaker wants to make sure their part of the state benefits from the pot.

There is $15 billion in taxpayer dollars on the line when you add the general fund, the education trust fund and the supplemental bills for both budgets.

“This is the most difficult budget we’ve ever had, and it’s not just the amount. It’s lots of other factors that have come into play,” said Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Baldwin County, who chairs the committee that handles the general fund.

Albritton decreased what the House passed, putting more in reserves. But some senators are still nervous about a possible economic downturn.

“These federal funds are going to dry up. They’re going to stop. And our revenues are going to dip,” said Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Autauga County.

Montgomery County Sen. Kirk Hatcher says the capital city is disproportionally funded.

“How do you all sleep knowing that 80 to 82% or 84% of a supplemental budget goes in one direction of the state to the absolute exclusion of the rest of the state,” Hatcher said on the House floor.

Some lawmakers found the same trend in the education trust fund. Rep. Artis “A.J.” McCampbell, D-Marengo County, said $46 million is being invested in the southern part of the state while $142 million is spent up north.

Millions of dollars in the south are for a whitewater raft park. Hatcher called it a “huge infrastructure matter, not just for Montgomery and this region, but for this entire state.”

Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Jefferson County, who chairs the committee that handles the education trust fund, said he also sees the shortfall in parts of the south.

“If it weren’t for the community college system and really Auburn, who we’ve got here in that central quadrant, there would not be that much money going into the Black Belt, so you make a point and we certainly want to work with you to try to move that forward,” Garrett said.

Lawmakers are working to come to an agreement on the numerous changes for both budgets.

Pay raises for educators and state employees are included in those budgets.

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