Despite Democrats’ opposition, General Fund budget has its day before the House

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Taking a strategy from last week’s playbook, Alabama House Democrats began a filibuster as the Special Order Calendar was brought up for discussion. The calendar includes the General Fund budget, which raised the ire of Dems because of its lack of adequate Medicaid funding.

The current budget leaves in place an about $100 million shortfall in the Medicaid budget and will obliterate plans announced by Gov. Robert Bentley to institute a Regional Care Organization (RCO) program in the state.

Both Bentley and House Speaker Rep. Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) have signaled that there will likely be a special session called to address the shortfall in Medicaid.

According to statements made by Hubbard, Republicans are slow to fully fund the Medicaid program because it puts a strain on all other state agencies. Along with prisons, Medicaid takes up about 62 percent of the state’s budget.

“I stand here today because I am concerned about where we are on the Medicaid budget,” said Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D-Birmingham). “Yet again, we will have failed the people who need it the most. We find money here in this state for everything in this state that we need to find it for. I still cannot fathom why we need to have a special session, yet again, to fix a problem here in this state that we should be addressing right now.”

Givan noted that more than a million Alabamians receive Medicaid benefits and lawmakers should be looking at ways to raise revenue to fund the program.

Rep. William Buskey (D-Mobile) referred to constituent concerns over a “bare-bones budget.”

“I don’t think it’s bare bones,” Buskey said. “I think it cuts through the flesh, almost to the marrow.”

“I believe healthcare is paramount to everything we do,” said Rep. Darrio Melton (D-Dallas). “Healthcare drives so much of our economic development. Let’s make health care strong.”

Democrats stalled for more than two hours, but eventually a vote was taken and the Special Order Calendar was approved.

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