Alabama Budget: Committee approves state employees' raise, $50 million increase for prisons

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. ( — State employees would get their first cost-of-living raise in 10 years and Alabama's beleaguered prison system would get a $50 million increase under a General Fund budget bill approved by a Senate committee today.

The Senate Finance and Taxation committee approved the bill by Chairman Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, sending it to the Senate floor.

Pittman made some changes to Gov. Kay Ivey's proposed budget but stuck with the governor's plan on key points, like the pay raise and increased funding for prisons, mental health, law enforcement and Medicaid.

The 3 percent pay raise came in a separate bill by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville that was approved by the committee.

Pittman's bill would increase the Department of Corrections budget for next year by the $50 million Ivey requested, plus an additional $1 million for therapeutic education in Columbiana. That would raise DOC's General Fund appropriation to $467 million.

Overall, Pittman's bill calls for spending $2 billion from the General Fund, an increase of $159 million over this year.

Pittman said the budget was helped significantly by $92 million lawmakers carried over from this year's budget. Revenues also grew by $40 million, he said.

Pittman characterized the budget as level-funded for most agencies with a receiving increases. Asked whether the budget covers the state's most critical needs, Pittman said: "It covers them to the extent that we were able to afford it with I believe the best priorities and the right priorities."

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