Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon (pictured below) of Monrovia minced no words in outlining the budget struggles facing the Legislature in the upcoming 2017 session. McCutcheon addressed the Blount County-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week.
After providing a quick review of General Fund budget ups and downs for the last two legislative sessions, McCutcheon zeroed in on budget challenges in the upcoming session starting in February.
A major administrative problem is to develop definitive information on the many state agencies dependent on the General Fund for their operations – their cost profiles and complete list of funding sources. A related problem is to address earmarks. There are obviously too many, but some are necessary, even constitutional. Which are imperative?
Next, the Alabama Department of Corrections is on the verge of losing the federal court case concerning the prison system. “The judge is going to send us into mediation to fix the problems,” McCutcheon said, adding that it will be a key concern of the coming session.
Other high-profile issues:
Education – protect Education Trust Fund from General Fund shortfalls. A-F grading “is going to be a big deal,” he said. Dilemma: realizing the good without amplifying the bad.
Ethics – needs to be more practical in light of realities of part-time legislators.
State retirement – must shore up retirement system; costs going from $300 million to $1 billion; “We will protect retirement and benefits,” he said.
Infrastructure – “If we’re going to have economic growth, we have to have good infrastructure. We need another bond issue (like ATRIP). If we don’t fix infrastructure, major corporations are going to leave the state.”