Governor Robert Bentley threatens budget veto over state cuts

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Gov. Robert Bentley threw down the gauntlet on Friday, saying unambiguously that he would wield his veto pen if “draconian” cuts to health care and other social services remained in a draft spending plan, effectively blowing up the entire budget process and setting the state for a showdown between Alabama’s legislative and executive branches.

“This is a budget that is draconian, and it will hurt people,” Bentley told the Alabama Public Health Association Conference in Montgomery.

The maneuvering by Bentley and his office comes amid deep concerns in his Cabinet and administration that the Legislature’s spending plan would, among other things, cut the state’s small and overstretched Medicaid program by more than a quarter of a billion dollars.

“I don’t want to be hyperbolic, but I really don’t know if we can make a Medicaid program work that CMS will approve when you cut $350 million out of a program that already has the third-lowest cost in the country,” State Health Officer Don Williamson said.

Bentley also continued to press for public support for his new tax program, which includes $541 million in new revenue by way of eight separate tax increases, in areas such as new automobile and tobacco sales.

Lawmakers haven’t embraced Bentley’s tax proposal during the first third of the legislative session.

Bentley has called out many of his fellow Republicans in the statehouse, who have criticized his tax package while, at the same time, seeking state funds in the budget.

“If they’re not willing to stick their neck out, they don’t need to be sticking their hand out,” he said pointedly.

Should the governor issue his threatened veto, the Legislature could override it with a simple majority vote.

Alabama’s legislature is about a third of the way through its annual lawmaking Session, which ends June 15.

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Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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