Getting Back to Work

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 15, 2005

Governor Riley has indicated he will call the legislature back into a special session on July 19 in order to pass the state’s General Fund budget–the $1.52 billion budget that supports vital state agencies and services that keep our state running.

The House of Representatives passed a General Fund budget way back on March 16, many weeks before the end of the regular legislative session. The Senate did not take a vote on the budget and it died. Senate inaction was caused for the most part by a Republican filibuster that lasted more than a month over important campaign finance bills that were passed by the House.

Now our state is without a General Fund budget for next year, the budget which pays for things like the courts, prisons, public health, and veterans services, just to name a few. The demands placed on the General Fund are growing every year.

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Medicaid is a case in point of the importance of state services, and why costs are increasing. Funded by state and federal dollars, Medicaid is critically needed by many ofAlabama’s seniors and children for health insurance. This year’s Medicaid funding increased by $65 million, from $364 million to $429 million, because the cost of long-term elder care is increasing, prescription drug prices are going through the roof, and the federal government has limited what it will pay for its share of the program.

With demand for state services increasing and the cost spiraling upward, we need to tighten our belts wherever we can. My fellow House members and I are constantly looking for savings and ways to reduce costs, and the budget the House passed back in March reflected our bare bones attitude. The House passed a responsible budget back in the last regular legislative session, and the work we did then can be used in the special session to get a budget passed quickly.

I stand ready to work quickly to pass a General Fund budget in this upcoming special session, saving taxpayer dollars, and puttingAlabamaon a responsible course for next year. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to do what they were elected to do: the business of the people ofAlabama. To do anything less and let the budget process drag on in a special session is unacceptable. The people ofAlabamadeserve better.