Senate committee undoes Medicaid cut, revives old budget

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A Senate budget committee on Friday resurrected a cut-filled budget that Gov. Robert Bentley vetoed in June as lawmakers remain at an impasse over taxes and revenue.

The action essentially puts state politicians back to where they started when summer began, with state agencies facing more than $200 million in cuts and no agreement on how to fill the shortfall. Lawmakers anticipate a second special session later this fall.

“I think we will be back in a second special session,” Senate Finance and Taxation Committee Chairman Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said.

The Senate committee rejected a House-passed budget that would have focused the bulk of the cuts on the state Medicaid Agency to try to build pressure for a solution. Senators said that was too risky of a strategy, adding that could lead to the collapse of the healthcare program for the elderly, poor and disabled.

However, they weren’t happy with the cuts they approved in the absence of a revenue solution.

“We’re replacing a sorry budget with a crappy budget,” Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said.

That spending plan, which Bentley vetoed in June and would likely do again, would have cut funding to Medicaid, the Department of Human Resources, prisons and the Department of Mental Health by about 5 percent. Other state agencies would see deeper reductions.

Orr said Alabama citizens would be negatively affected by the cuts if they went into effect when the fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

“You would see state parks beginning the shutdown process. You would see employees beginning to get pink slips. You would see programs beginning to be cut, shut down and abolished,” Orr said.

The Senate is expected to vote on the budget Monday. The special session must end Tuesday.

Lawmakers have been working since March on how to fill a projected shortfall in the general fund

Proposals such a cigarette tax, a soda tax, ending income tax deductions, tightening corporate tax loopholes and yanking the money from the separate education budget haven’t gotten enough support to get to a floor vote.

Senate and House leaders are meeting with Bentley on Friday to talk about the final days of the special session and the outlook for a second.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.


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