State budget still far off

Published 9:42 pm Saturday, February 21, 2009

After $790 billion in federal aid, Alabama legislators are no closer to knowing just how that number will break down in the state budget.

And that has put a halt on even planning within budget committees right now, said Rep. Alan Boothe (D-Troy).

“We’re not too sure what this is going to do for us,” Boothe said.

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Boothe and Sen. Wendell Mitchell (D-Luverne) said the stimulus could bring much needed assistance to both the general fund budget, which supports agencies like the Department of Human Resources, Medicaid and the court systems, as well as an education budget looking at $800 million in cuts.

How much though, is key.

Mitchell said even though legislators and advisors to Gov. Bob Riley are still deciphering the stimulus fund, he thinks the legislature will not delay passing a budget as they did last year.

“We have one of the longest legislative sessions in the country, and I don’t think we’ll have any problem,” Mitchell said.

Boothe said typically, passing a budget is one of the last things the legislators do.

And though the budget is put on hold for now, Boothe and Mitchell said this session has been one of the most productive they’ve seen, and some bills that could affect Pike County may come up for vote as early as next week.

One will provide $100 million a year for roads and bridges in the state. If passed, this bill could provide some much-needed assistance to the Pike County Road Department and municipalities, Mitchell said.

Along similar lines, a $6 million bill that would stimulate the housing market could be passed at the same time.

“We’ve passed 49 major general bills,” Mitchell said.

“That hasn’t ever been done this early in the Senate. We’re kind of on a roll.”

And a bill that would eliminate the state’s 4-percent sales tax on groceries is on the Senate floor, Mitchell said, but it may be a while before it comes up for final vote.