After hours of debate, Alabama House approves General Fund budget

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The Alabama House of Representatives approved a $1.8 billion state budget after nearly four hours of debate over a proposed pay raise for state employees, who haven not had a cost-of-living increase since 2008.

Lawmakers voted 72-28 for the budget late Tuesday, which keeps $97 million – roughly 5 percent of the total budget – in reserve for future needs after the BP oil spill settlement money is gone.

The proposed pay raise for state employees would have cost the state an additional $19 million a year, which conservative lawmakers said was too high a price to pay for the cash-strapped state. Many Democrats adamantly disagreed, saying it was unfair to punish the workers for the state’s budgetary woes.

“That’s unconscionable to think that people would work that long and not get a raise,” Democratic state Rep. John Knight said from the House floor during debate.

The bill now moves to the state Senate.

If passed, the spending plan will go into effect Oct. 1 and provide level funding to most state agencies.