General fund budget passes

Published 3:00 am Thursday, March 24, 2016

MONTGOMERY(AP) — The Alabama legislature on Wednesday gave final approval to a General Fund budget that Gov. Robert Bentley has vowed to veto over what he says is inadequate Medicaid funding.

Senators voted 20-13 in favor of the $1.85 billion budget, which allocates $700 million to Medicaid. Bentley has said that is $85 million less than what is needed to adequately fund the state’s Medicaid program. Legislators say they can’t further fund Medicaid without cannibalizing other state programs.

“You’ve got to live within the means, and that’s what we’re doing,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said Wednesday.

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On Monday, Bentley called the current budget “unacceptable,” and said he would call a special session if lawmakers override his veto, which would enact the spending plan with a majority vote of both legislature chambers.

Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, voted against the budget Wednesday, saying he takes issue with spending on construction projects when the legislature won’t fully fund Medicaid.

“We need to have a commitment and moratorium against spending any dime on brick and mortar projects until we adequately fund the projects that affect people,” Smitherman said.

Bentley on Monday said a lottery might be the only way to raise funds for the Medicaid shortfall. He said he believes voters would overwhelmingly approve a lottery if given the chance.

Several lottery bills have been floated during the 2016 session, including one that would allow participation in multistate games. None has made it to a floor vote.