Gov. Kay Ivey submitted budget proposals to the Alabama Legislature Tuesday, including funding for important agricultural programs.
The Alabama Farmers Federation’s Matthew Durdin said economic growth has taken pressure off the budgeting process.
“After years of facing proration or leveraging one-time funds to balance the budget, Alabama is in a strong financial position,” said Durdin, who leads the External Affairs Department. “We are going into this session of the Legislature with surpluses in both budgets and an opportunity to address some of the state’s most pressing needs.”
Ivey’s proposed General Fund (GF)budget calls for $2.15 billion in spending for fiscal year 2020, up 4 percent from the current year. A new tax on internet sales is credited with much of the growth. Her $7.1 billion Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget would be the largest in history, thanks to low unemployment resulting in higher income tax collections.
The governor’s proposals call for level funding or slight increases for all agricultural priorities.
General Fund agricultural spending would include $575,000 in the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) budget for Concentrated Animal Feed Operation (CAFO) fees. Ivey recommended increasing ADEM’s overall budget to $4 million, citing the need to match federal funds.
Ivey’s budget proposal also includes $81,403 in matching funds for the Regional Conservation Partnership Project (RCPP) to expand on-farm irrigation. The Department of Agriculture and Industries would receive basically level funding of $12.2 million under the plan, while the Alabama Forestry Commission would get $8.2 million, up from $7.6 million this year.
The ETF proposal includes $5 million for career technology operations and $5.8 for the Career Tech Initiative. This includes $433,900 for agribusiness education programs like the North Alabama Agriplex, Alabama TREASURE Forest Association and Ag in the Classroom.
Ivey’s education spending plan calls for $175,000 for Liberty Learning Foundation and $2.5 million for rural medical programs at state universities. Other ETF funding includes $1.6 million for the Soil and Water Conservation Committee, $2 million for Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D), $33.7 million for the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, $35 million for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and $5.3 million for the Alabama Agricultural Land Grant Alliance (AALGA).
Major increases in Ivey’s GF budget would bolster corrections and law enforcement. Her plan calls for an 8 percent increase for the Department of Corrections, including about $30 million to hire 500 additional officers and increase pay for correctional staff. In her State of the State address, Ivey said the move is needed to avoid federal intervention.
“This is an Alabama problem that must have an Alabama solution,” she said.
Ivey also would give the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency an 11 percent increase to hire, train and provide equipment for an additional 50 state troopers.
Her GF budget would leave a balance of $105 million to carry into the 2021 fiscal year. The reserve would be used, in part, to cover increases in the state’s portion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Ivey’s ETF budget would increase funding for the award-winning First Class prekindergarten program as well as state universities. The additional $28 million for pre-K would allow the program to reach an additional 193 classrooms and almost 3,500 students.
Overall, ETF would increase almost $500 million from current-year spending.
Ivey’s budgets would provide a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for state employees through the GF and a 4 percent raise for education employees from pre-kindergarten through the two-year college system in the ETF.