The Alabama Legislature returns this week to work its 15th and 16th legislative days. The pace of work has been brisk and principally directed towards passing the constitutionally mandated spending bills as early as possible, perhaps before they take Spring Break on the week of March 28th.
General Fund Appropriation
The Senate has passed a General Fund Appropriation bill (SB125) and Chairman Steve Clouse has quickly moved the bill through the House Ways & Means Committee to allow floor consideration as early as Tuesday of this week. The House committee made some slight changes to the Senate version and the Senate is expected to concur with those changes if the bill comes out of the House in similar fashion to what was passed from committee. There is expected to be much discussion regarding Medicaid funding and it will probably be a contentious day in the House. If the Senate concurs with the House bill, the Governor is expected to veto the bill because it does not include enough for Medicaid. The legislature is expected to override the Governor’s veto and is anticipating a potential special session to address the issue later in the year.
Education Fund Appropriation
The Appropriation bill for education spending, HB117 sponsored by Representative Bill Poole (R- Tuscaloosa) has passed the House of Representatives and now moves to consideration by the Senate’s Finance & Taxation Education Fund committee. The committee, chaired by Senator Arthur Orr (R- Decatur) is expected to consider the bill in the next week or so. The bill passed with no opposition in the House.
Fuel Tax Increase
The House of Representatives is expected to take up the “Accountability” portion of the fuel tax increase package, SB180 sponsored by Senator Gerald Dial (R- Lineville), on Wednesday in the House Transportation committee. The long-awaited introduction of the second bill, the actual fuel tax increase itself, is also expected to occur this week. The bill, sponsored by Representative Mac McCutcheon (R- Madison), is expected to include an increase in both gasoline and diesel taxes, a mechanism to automatically adjust the tax on a four year basis (without any future votes required) and an index from which to make the adjustment. The index most prominently discussed to date would include an average of surrounding contiguous states. AFA is opposed to any new fuel tax increase until transparency and fiscal accountability and a change in prioritization (allowing counties more revenue) for existing fuel taxes is implemented. An automatic adjustment mechanism, especially one linked to other state’s actions, is also not supported.
Property Tax Increase
A bill, SB136, sponsored by Senator Vivian Figures (D- Mobile) would set up a state-wide referendum to increase property taxes by 5 mils to be dedicated to Medicaid funding. The bill was given a favorable report out of the Senate’s Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee last week. The committee, chaired by Senator Trip Pittman (R- Montrose), voted 7-6 in favor of the bill. During the committee’s discussion, it was apparent that several committee members were in favor of discussing property tax increases as part of the overall “solution” for the constantly challenged General Fund Appropriations process.
The six senators that opposed the bill were Clyde Chambliss (R- Prattville), Steve Livingston (R- Scottsboro), Tim Melson (R- Florence), Paul Sanford (R- Huntsville), Larry Stutts (R- Tuscumbia) and Cam Ward (R- Alabaster). Please contact these members and express your appreciation for their support in opposing the property tax increase. Their contact information can be obtained here.
The seven senators voting in favor of the property tax increase included 4 Republicans and 3 Democrats: Trip Pittman (R- Montrose), Greg Albritton (R- Range), Bill Holtzclaw (R- Madison), Jabo Waggoner (R- Vestavia Hills), Priscilla Dunn (D- Birmingham), Billy Beasley (D- Clayton) and Bobby Singleton (D- Greensboro).