By Mary Sell, ALABAMA DAILY NEWS
Lawmakers are expected to take the first vote today on a proposed 2021 General Fund budget that reduces for many agencies funding that was proposed two months ago before the coronavirus hit the state’s economy.
While legislative leadership said it wants bare bones General Fund and education budgets passed by May 18, the last possible day of this legislative session, Gov. Kay Ivey has told them it can wait, her spokeswoman told Alabama Daily News.
“The governor has expressed to the leadership that she is surprised they want to move forward in passing budgets without having a better understanding of revenue projections,” Press Secretary Gina Maiola said. “We will only have a full picture of our receipts after July 15, 2020 because of the extended state tax filing deadline due to COVID-19. The legislative leadership have informed Gov. Ivey they will proceed at this time to only address budgets and local bills, and, as they are a separate branch of government, they have every right to do so.”
The governor must sign budgets passed by lawmakers before they go into effect. In 2015, a lack of revenue created the need for two special sessions before a General Fund budget was approved in September, just weeks before the new fiscal year began.
The 14-member Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee meets at 2:30 p.m. today and chairman Sen. Greg Albritton said he expects a vote on a substitute General Fund bill.
Albritton, R-Range, earlier this week said lawmakers have to ease some of the uncertainty in the state.
“A lot of people don’t know where we’re going,” Albritton said. “One thing we can do is start to lay down a solid budget.”
Albritton’ substitute budget, not yet made public, is expected to be significantly different from the $2.5 billion proposal Ivey introduced in early February, before concerns over the coronavirus shuttered some businesses, at least temporarily put hundreds of thousands of Alabamians out of work and slowed state tax revenues.
State Finance Director Kelly Butler said last week he anticipates a drop-off of as much as $1 billion in tax revenue due to the outbreak.
Most of the state’s 140 lawmakers won’t return to Montgomery until next week, leadership said last week. But Albritton said it was important to begin work on the General Fund budget.
Today’s meeting will accommodate social distancing practices and members of the public will not be at what is usually a crowded event in the State House. The meeting will be broadcast by Alabama Public Television and audio is available on the Legislature’s website.