House OKs General Fund despite opposition, threat of veto

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Alabama House of Representatives

The Alabama House of Representatives passed a General Fund budget Tuesday, which leaves in place a roughly $85 million budget shortfall for the state’s Medicaid program. Gov. Robert Bentley has already signaled that a failure to fully fund Medicaid would cause him to veto the bill and likely call for a special session.

House Democrats fought vehemently against bringing the budget to the floor, noting that a failure to fully fund Medicaid would obliterate the state’s recently announced Regional Care Organization (RCO) program and leave millions of needy Alabamians with no healthcare. Despite that, the bill made it to the floor and was debated for several hours.

In the chamber, Democrats again railed against the legislation in the five-hour skirmish and members of both parties chastised Bentley for providing some Cabinet members with a significant raise while the state’s General Fund crumbles.

Republicans struck back, claiming that the additional money for Medicaid just is not there and there is little to no appetite for raising taxes in an effort to collect more revenue.

After passage of the bill, the Arise Citizens’ Policy Project (ACPP) released a statement condemning the General Fund budget’s failure to fully fund Medicaid.

“These Medicaid cuts would be devastating for Alabamians, our economy and our entire health care system,” said ACPP Executive Director Kimble Forrister. “They could force many rural hospitals to close and prompt many pediatricians to leave the state. They would end coverage of essential services like outpatient dialysis and adult eyeglasses. And they would end promising new Medicaid reforms that would save money and keep people healthier.”

“We simply can’t afford these Medicaid cuts,” Forrister continued. “It’s wrong to put health care at risk for children, seniors, and people with disabilities in Alabama. It’s time to get serious about raising the revenue needed to invest in a healthier Alabama for all.”

With its passage in the House, the bill will go before the Senate. If the Senate passes the measure, Bentley has said he will veto the legislation and require lawmakers to take it up again.

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