The Alabama Legislature passed the largest Education Trust Fund (ETF) in state history Saturday, despite projections for lower tax revenues due to the COVID-19 economic fallout.
Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee Chairman Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, attributed the growth to conservative budgeting in recent years.
“Very pleased to announce the passage of the Education Trust Fund Budget!” Orr tweeted. “This will mark the largest (yet, very conservative [thanks] to many years of good budgeting) education budget in state history. This budget will put education first across the state!”
The $7.2 billion budget now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature or veto. She could also add executive amendments to either budget, which would send them back to the Legislature for further action. Both chambers adjourned Saturday but were expected to reconvene May 18, the last day allowed for the 2020 Regular Session under the state constitution.
Career technology and agriculture fared well in the ETF, with key programs mostly level funded from the current fiscal year budget.
Career Tech operations and maintenance held firm at $5 million, while Career Tech Initiative appropriations included a one-time increase of $215,000 for repairs at the Cullman County Agricultural Trade Center. Overall, the Career Tech line item was $8.3 million, including $451,900 for agribusiness education programs such as Ag in the Classroom. State funding for the Liberty Learning Foundation was flat at $275,000.
Spending also was maintained for rural medicine programs at Auburn University, Tuskegee University and the University of Alabama, while the program at the University of Alabama in Huntsville saw a modest increase of $21,000. Altogether, the programs received almost $2.7 million.
The Alabama Agricultural Land Grant Alliance (AALGA) was funded at $5.6 million, including a $100,000 increase to match U.S. Department of Agriculture spending at Tuskegee University. The Soil and Water Conservation Committee received an additional $200,000 for a total of $2.1 million. The appropriation for Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) programs was up $500,000 to $3.1 million.
Agricultural funding at Auburn University included $250,000 for the Poultry Science Department and a new appropriation of $250,000 for a national livestock coordinator within the College of Agriculture. Duties for the new position would include revival of Auburn’s Livestock Judging Team.
The Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station saw an increase of $673,000 to $34.3 million, while the Alabama Cooperative Extension System increased $707,000 to $36 million.
The Commerce Department received $400,000 to support economic development through a new Rural Marketing Program. The Rural Broadband Grant Program through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) was level funded at $20 million.
Absent from ETF spending was a pay increase for teachers, which had been broadly supported prior to the economic downturn. For more detailed information on the ETF, visit the Legislative Services Agency at lsa.state.al.us.