With the Alabama Legislature expected to conclude the 2019 Regular Session May 31, reconciling differences in state budgets will be a priority during the final week.
The Senate passed its version of the General Fund (GF) budget Tuesday, and it was assigned to a conference committee following nonconcurrence by the House of Representatives. Meanwhile, the House Ways and Means Education Committee approved its version of the Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget Wednesday. It’s expected to be considered on the House floor Tuesday, which would prompt another conference committee to reconcile differences with the Senate version.
A major task will be deciding the distribution of $35 million needed for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Gov. Kay Ivey requested the full amount be taken from the ETF, but the Senate version excluded the item. The House committee added $17.5 million for CHIP, and the Senate GF budget includes another $17.5 million.
Both versions of the $2.1 billion GF budget include an additional $40 million for the Department of Corrections to hire 500 more correctional officers and increase pay to help with retention; $5.5 million to hire and equip 30 new State Troopers; and $12 million for a 2% state employee pay raise.
Significant increases in the $7.1 billion ETF budget are a 4% raise for teachers and an additional $26.8 million for the award-winning First Class pre-K program. The ETF is expected to be the biggest education budget in state history and about $492.4 million higher than current year spending.
Agriculture and forestry are positioned well in all versions of the budgets including funding for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation registration fees; the Regional Conservation Partnership Program; Career Tech Initiative; and Ag in the Classroom.