General fund budget passes Alabama House; would mean major cuts if Senate approves

General fund budget passes Alabama House; would mean major cuts if Senate approves

MONTGOMERY, AL (WAFF) - The Alabama House of Representatives has approved House Bill 135 on Tuesday by a vote of 66-36.

The bill would mean 5% cuts to Medicaid, and the Departments of Mental Health, Human Resources and Corrections. Cuts to other agencies start at about 9%.

The bill now heads to the state senate. There, discussions will continue on how to handle a shortfall for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Gov. Robert Bentley has criticized the proposed cuts as "irresponsible." The governor has vowed to veto a budget with deep funding cuts.

Time is running out for legislators to approve revenue bills with seven meeting days remaining after Tuesday.

Lawmakers are likely headed to a special session sometime this summer.

Representative Craig Ford, a democrat from Gadsden and the House Minority Leader, released the following statement after the announcement of the bill's passage:

"The budget the House passed today is going to hurt a lot of people if the Senate doesn't make some major changes. The sad part is that all of these cuts, and all the pain that will come with them, could have been avoided. We've known for three years that this day was coming. But in all that time, the leadership couldn't come up with a viable solution to the budget crisis. Now it's up to the Senators to come up with a better solution. And for the people of Alabama's sake I hope that they do."

Kimble Forrister, executive director of the nonpartisan Arise Citizens' Policy Project, issued this statement:

"The House's budget would weaken Alabama's economy and our future. Services like Medicaid, mental health care and child care boost our quality of life and provide the backbone for economic growth. But Alabama has cut these services to the bone in recent years, and the House budget would make the situation even worse. Children, seniors and our most vulnerable neighbors would suffer as a result.
"Alabama simply can't afford the cuts in the no-new-revenue General Fund budget. It's time to stop cutting the services that make our state a better, healthier place to live and to start investing in Alabama's future."

Governor Bentley said on Tuesday he would rather have no budget at all than this one, and is still pressuring the Senate to support raising taxes to generate some new revenue.

He released a video statement (mobile users, click here) expressing his disappointment with the passage.

"It is unworkable, it's irresponsible, and it is really going to hurt the people of this state," Bentley said. "I hope when it comes to the Senate that changes will be made. Hopefully they will reject it. I will have to veto this if it is passed."

Bentley said the majority of senators are on board with the plan. 10 different Republican senators sister station WSFA spoke to confirmed the governor had been in touch. Most reportedly told him they would not support new taxes.

Jabo Waggoner told the governor he would consider it, but when asked if he had, he said no - he just wanted to get the governor off the phone.

Trip Pittman said he would consider a combination of measures to balance the budget.

Only Dick Brewbaker answered affirmatively - he supports some kind of revenue-raising measures to balance the budget; things like a cigarette and soda tax have been thrown around as possibilities.

The general fund budget will probably come up in committee next week, and could hit the Senate floor by next Thursday.

Copyright 2015 WAFF. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.