Education budget goes to Ivey; General Fund to conference committee

Education budget goes to Ivey; General Fund to conference committee

By Caroline Beck AND Mary Sell, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Legislature on Thursday sent Gov. Kay Ivey a record-size education for fiscal 2022 but said the General Fund budget needs a bit more work. Both proposed budgets include increases in spending over the current year and 2% pay increases for state employees and K-12 and community college employees. Next year’s $7.6 billion education budget includes increases for school spending, colleges and universities and early learning, as well as some correctional education.  There are also more targeted increases to attract and retain math and science teachers in middle and high schools.  The proposed $2.4 billion 2022 General Fund is more than $80 million larger than the current year’s budget. The Senate approved it Thursday and sent it back to the House. Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, recommended it be sent to a conference committee to work out differences, none of which he said were “earth shattering.”  Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, the Senate General Fund budget committee chairman, said allocations in the budget are very similar to the 2021 budget. “The biggest difference between last year’s budget and this year’s budget is language that we put into several places requiring more reporting, more oversight and more controls,” Albritton said on the Senate floor. Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, praised his colleagues for the state’s budget situation more than a year after COVID-19 disrupted businesses and lives. “We’re standing here today passing a budget larger than last year through a pandemic,” Marsh said. “We are one of the very few states, ladies and gentlemen, that are in this position because of the past practices of this body and the House.”  The conference committee on the General Fund will have to happen next week. There are three working days left in lawmakers’ 2021 session. Passing the budgets is the only thing the Legislature is constitutionally obligated to do each year.