Senate delays vote on controversial plan to unify state budget

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After a lengthy debate on the Senate floor late Thursday, lawmakers voted to carry over a bill to unify the Alabama general fund and education budgets. Sen. Gerald Dial filed Senate Bill 502  to allow voters to decide whether to establish a single state budget and remove any recommendations or limits on how funds within that budget should be spent.

On Thursday, Dial again urged lawmakers to allow the issue to go before the voters of Alabama: “I’m trying to offer another alternative to some of the problems we’re in.”

Dial repeated the reasoning he used during the finance and taxation committee meeting this week, when he said that without the practice of earmarking, or placing limits on how money is spent within the budget, Alabama lawmakers might have a different set of funding decisions to make this session.

Sen. Rodger Smitherman, a Democrat, spent more than an hour attempting to block the legislation over concerns that the proposal would erase funding for Alabama’s public schools.

“I’m standing here for every child in Jefferson County because they can’t vote,” Smitherman said. “I’ve heard the facts, we are 49th in this country [for education], we can’t fully fund textbooks, the last time the teachers had a raise was 2008 […] now we’re saying that there’s enough money left in the Education Trust Fund to fund all these other things. Not on the backs of our young people.”

The decision to carry over the legislation was made by voice vote.

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