By MADDISON BOOTH, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday approved the largest General Fund Budget in the state’s history, totaling $2.7 billion.
Because of changes made in the House, the bill returned Tuesday to the Alabama Senate which voted to go to a conference committee and work out differences between the two versions passed by each chamber.
Some noteworthy aspects of the fiscal year 2023 spending plan include a 4% pay raise for state employees and a one-time bonus for retired state employees.
Rep. Kelvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville, said that state employees were one of the groups hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think this is a great way to reward them for all of their hard work and dedication,” Lawrence said.
The budget will also provide extra funds for the Alabama Department of Mental Health and the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles.
The money allocated to the Department of Mental Health will allow for construction of community mental health centers and the implementation of crisis intervention training programs.
The budget awards $2.7 million for the World Games that will be held in Birmingham in July, $5.3 million for the construction of a new forensic laboratory in Dothan.
The House also voted to pilot an extension of Medicaid maternity coverage from the current 60 days to a full year after birth.
Chairman of the House General Fund Committee Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said that he is excited to see Alabama following with its neighboring states towards increasing this coverage.
Clouse said the state has recovered “a tremendous amount” since the economic downturn of 2008.
“We’ve really recovered a tremendous amount since the downturn of ’08,” Clouse, a Republican from Ozark, said referencing the period that the general fund shrank down to $1.6 billion.
“In 2014, our budget numbers were at the very, very bottom,” Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan, added. “We’ve come a long way.”