48 Investigates: Where's your money headed in the new state budg - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

48 First Alert Investigation

48 Investigates: Where's your money headed in the new state budget?

Gov. Bentley signs the FY2016 budget. (Source: Twitter/Gov. Robert Bentley) Gov. Bentley signs the FY2016 budget. (Source: Twitter/Gov. Robert Bentley)
(WAFF) -

It took nearly six months and two special sessions to get a budget. And after all the dust settled - several departments and groups took major hits to funding including mental health and veterans.

We’re asking lawmakers where taxpayers' money is going and why we faced such a shortfall. Are the earmarked funds the problem?

Gov. Robert Bentley and other lawmakers blamed the state's financial woes on money legally bound to certain departments, regardless of the financial needs of that department or others. That money is known as "earmarked funds."

We brought the newly passed budget to Sen. Bill Holtzclaw (R-District 2). He was one of nine Republican state senators to vote against raising taxes and against the budget. Holtzclaw started poking holes in it immediately.

"Why is the state still in the alcohol business? Why do we have ABC stores?" questioned Holtzclaw.

We also looked at the budget the ABC stores and their regulatory group will receive. $74 million in earmarked funds is headed their way. Holtzclaw points to that as one of many examples of why the state is in financial trouble.

So where is your money going?

The 2016 budget has nearly $13 billion in earmarked money. Nearly half of that is made up of Medicaid funds.

But after flipping through page after page, we found $500,000 earmarked for the Dry Cleaning Environmental Response Trust Fund Advisory Board. Another $50,000 is set aside for the Alabama State Board of Registration for Interior Design. That list goes on and on.

"A couple of these that I would ask you to take a closer look at and be aware of," said Holtzclaw as he looked at the list. "The Homebuilder's Licensing Board is $4.1 million. On the surface to the public that seems like wow why are we paying that, but you have to look at the source of the revenue for that because they're taxing themselves. These are industries that pay themselves a level of money that we as a legislature have oversight of."

Holtzclaw said one solution to fix problems is un-earmarking some funds, but noted it has to be done carefully.

"We need to not go in with a machete,” said Holtzclaw. “We need to go in with a scalpel."

But if that fine tuning isn't done, Holtzclaw predicts we'll have the same problem in five months when the Legislature convenes to talk about the 2017 budget.

"I'm an optimist but I'm willing to bet we're going to be in another budget crisis, going through the same battles,and we'll have everything from gambling to lottery introduced, more tax raises...," he said.
 
If you haven't had a chance to go through the 125-page budget, we've done it for you.

Click here to see every earmarked dollar and where it's headed.

You can also view a slideshow that breaks down some of the cuts (or increases) in funding to each department and how they compare to last year's budget.

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