Alabama Senate approves General Fund budget, prison funding boost

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The Alabama Senate on Tuesday passed a $2 billion FY19 General Fund budget.

Senators voted 26 to 2 for the budget that appropriates funds for functions of government, debt service, and capital outlay for fiscal year ending September 30, 2019.

Answering Gov. Kay Ivey‘s January request, the budget allocates a $3.2 million increase to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) to fund a new class of 30 state troopers. It also provides an $8 million increase for the Department of Mental Health, as well a a $4.7 million increase for the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).

“This budget protects the taxpayers of Alabama, while ensuring that the core functions of state government are adequately funded,” said Montrose-Republican and the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Trip Pittman, Chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Budget Committee. “We have prioritized targeted increases for state troopers, prisons, and the Department of Public Health, and level-funded nearly every other state department and agency.”

The spending plan also sends an additional $51 million to the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC).

The allocation of funds follow U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruling last year to a federal lawsuit, which declared Alabama’s prison system has failed to provide mental health care to the state’s prison population and is in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

“Given the severity and urgency of the need for mental-health care explained in this opinion, the proposed relief must be both immediate and long term,”U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson wrote in his 302-page decision.

Anniston-Republican and Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh said it’s a good budget that lives within Alabama’s fiscal means without raising taxes.

“This is a good general fund budget, we were able to fully fund state agencies, hire new state troopers, provide much needed money to address mental health in our prisons, and pay back debt to the Alabama Trust Fund,” said Marsh. “Although the past few budgets have been lean, through conservative fiscal practices and living within our means we have been able to come out of those years and pass a robust budget without having ever raised new taxes on hard working Alabamians.”

The bill now moves to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

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