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General Fund passes final vote

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The state’s General Fund budget received final passage Monday, as lawmakers sent a record-setting $2.4 billion budget to Gov. Kay Ivey for her approval.

House Budget Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, took to the House floor to explain that changes made in the conference committee add about $900,000 from what the Senate passed.  

The House and Senate voted unanimously on Monday to agree with the changes made in the conference committee. 

The approved 2022 fiscal year budget is $90.6 million larger than the current year’s budget and is about $26.5 million more than what Ivey recommended in February.

One of the most significant increases in the budget is a $26.3 million increase for the Alabama Department of Corrections. Ivey and ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn have said most of the new funds would be directed toward improving health care, including mental health care, in prisons.

Clouse explained on Monday that there is now an additional $37.8 million of conditional appropriations for the ADOC in the final budget that would be released in quarterly amounts only upon the submission of reports that show the number of corrections officers in the department, including newly hired corrections officers, meet certain benchmarks.

The Department of Mental Health will now see an $11.3 million increase from the 2021 fiscal year budget with an extra $150,00 going to an anti-eviction pilot program that was added in the conference committee.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency will receive a $7.9 million increase over the current fiscal year to help fund increased State House security and the new technology driven driver’s license system.

The General Fund got a break this year as federal matching dollars for the state Medicaid program and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, were higher than usual. That means while actual funding won’t decrease, the state will spend $51 million less on Medicaid and $12 million less on CHIP.

“It’s hard to say anything good came from the virus, but one thing that did happen is (the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare) raised the FMAP, or the amount the feds pay as opposed to the state for Medicaid, and that 6% meant them asking for more than $50 million less, and that was very good news,” Clouse has said.

The 2022 budget also includes a 2% cost of living raise for state employees. The budget takes effect Oct. 1.

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