Currently over 90 percent of Alabama’s tax dollars are earmarked for specific government programs or services — the highest percentage of earmarked dollars of any state — leaving the state Legislature with virtually no flexibility to allocate taxpayer dollars, especially in times of budget austerity.
In an effort to remedy this situation, which has created a perennial budget shortfall, the Alabama Senate Tuesday passed a resolution creating a task force of lawmakers to identify long-term budget reforms.
The 14-member bipartisan Joint Legislative Task Force on Budget Reform will be comprised of seven senators and seven members of the House of Representatives. The group will begin meeting later this month, where they will evaluate the following five ideas:
- Biennial budgeting cycles for both the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund budgets.
- Plans to un-earmark tax revenue, to increase legislative oversight of state departments and give flexibility to policymakers.
- Methods for requiring state entities to undergo greater performance and program reviews.
- Proposals to carefully evaluate the efficiency of all existing state tax credits, deductions, and exemptions. (Currently, more than $4.5 billion in tax revenue is given out via tax credits, deductions, and exemptions, and many of these are decades old).
- Identify areas where tax relief can be provided to Alabama’s families, without significantly impacting state budgets.
“Since 2010, we have cut over $1 billion annually in state government spending,” Anniston Republican and Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh said in a news release. “The reality is, however, that further budget reform is needed to put our state on a sound fiscal footing for the coming years and position Alabama for strong economic growth, and I am committed to achieving those goals without raising taxes.”
The task force is charged with reporting its findings and recommendations to the Alabama Legislature by the fifth legislative day of the 2017 Regular Session.