Legislative budget hearings begin today

Legislative budget hearings begin today

Joint budget hearings of the Alabama Senate and House of Representatives, a sort of prequel to the official start of the Legislative session, begin today.

The hearings are usually a time for agency leaders to talk about the successes of their agencies and advocate for more funding, while lawmakers press for answers on how previous funds have been spent.

In the middle of last year’s legislative session, when the coronavirus pandemic shut down significant portions of Alabama’s economy, budget crunchers feared that state coffers could see as much as a $2 billion negative impacts. Thankfully, that did not happen and state revenues have been mostly stable over the last year.

Will we learn more details about the state’s financial outlook going forward? That depends.

Years ago, these hearings involved the old Legislative Fiscal Office dropping its budget estimates weeks ahead of the governor’s budget, which often had different estimates, leading to competing headlines.

These days, the Legislature is more willing to wait on the governor, and agency leaders certainly don’t want to get out ahead of her.

The governor’s budget usually drops the second day of the session, which is a week from Wednesday.

How much is gleaned this week about the state’s revenue situation could depend on how hard lawmakers press for answers.

Today’s schedule focuses on the education budget:

  • 10 a.m.: Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education;
  • 10:15 a.m.: Alabama Department of Education;
  • 11 a.m.: Alabama Community College System
  • 11:30 a.m.: Alabama Commission on Higher Education
  • 1:30 p.m.: Hearing on economic tax incentives

 

Wednesday’s lineup includes some of the larger General Fund agencies:

  • 1:30 p.m.: Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles;
  • 2 p.m.: Alabama Law Enforcement Agency;
  • 2:30: Alabama Department of Corrections

 

On Thursday, the General Fund agency hearings continue:

  • 9:30 a.m.: Alabama Department of Public Health;
  • 10 a.m.: Alabama Department of Mental Health;
  • 10:30 a.m. Alabama Medicaid Agency

Because of COVID-19 safety protocols, the meetings will not be open to the public. They will be streamed from Room 200 of the State House online. Follow along at this link: http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/Alison/LegVideo.aspx

On Feb. 2, the first day of the 2021 regular session, lawmakers will get an overview of the state’s current budget situation and expected 2022 budget revenue from Kirk Fulford, deputy director of the Legislative Services Agency’s Fiscal Division, and state Finance Director Kelly Butler. Those presentations begin at 9:30 a.m.