Senate Committee Passes General Fund Budget
Agriculture and forestry fared well in a $2.1 billion budget approved Wednesday by the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund (GF) Committee.
Programs within the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) and Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) received additional appropriations not included in the version passed last month by the House of Representatives. Meanwhile, other Alabama Farmers Federation funding priorities were preserved. These included $575,000 at the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) to offset farmer registration fees for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and $81,403 to match federal funds for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) aimed at increasing on-farm irrigation.
Among new appropriations in the Senate committee version was $500,000 for the ADAI, including $150,000 for legal research on the impact on agriculture and forestry by the Endangered Species Act; $250,000 for research and development of micro-pulp technologies; and $100,000 for a new awareness program for Alabama-grown agricultural products. AFC would receive another $250,000 for forestry worker training and $200,000 for research into mass timber building construction.
Overall, the Senate committee’s ADAI funding totaled $13.1 million, up $867,242 from current year. This appropriation would include $3.3 million for the Resource Conservation and Development Program (RC&D), up $367,242.
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) appropriation included level funding of $2.5 million for broadband accessibility grants. AFC funding increased $950,000 to $8.7 million. This included $1.1 million for rural and community fire protection. The Emergency Forest Fire Fund was unchanged at $250,000.
Major GF increases from last year included $40 million for the Department of Corrections to hire 500 more correctional officers and increase pay by 20% 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.
A major difference between the Senate committee bill and House-passed version was a $17.5 million appropriation for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Gov. Kay Ivey recommended moving $35 million to the Education Trust Fund budget for the program, but the Senate removed that line item. Moving a portion of CHIP funding back to the GF was offset by a reduction in House-approved increases for the judicial system.
The GF budget, HB 152, is sponsored by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark. For detailed spreadsheets on the various versions of both state budgets, visit www.lsa.state.al.us.