Shortfall expected in 2011 State general fund budget

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - Grim news is coming from Montgomery on when it comes to the state's general fund budget for 2011.  Legislative fiscal officer Joyce Bigbee relayed the message to a group of lawmakers Monday morning.  

Bigbee says while tax revenues will be equal to last year's budget of 1.3 billion dollars, she estimates a 600 million dollar shortfall due to federal stimulus money that won't be available.  

Besides addressing the general fund, Bigbee also predicted a slight decrease in the state's education budget for this year compared to last.  Overall, the reductions could mean layoffs for teachers and state employees, larger class sizes and cuts in state services during fiscal year 2011.  

As for what else may be affect, Representative John Knight of Montgomery says it is too early to tell say. "Those are the type decisions we'll have to make as we go through this process," Knight says.  "It's not an easy one because it's never good to say, 'No. You can't fund certain projects and many of them would be good projects.  But if the money's not there, you just can't fund it.  That's the bottom line."  

Senator Roger Bedford of Russellville echoed Knight's thoughts. "I think absent some breakthrough in the stimulus for the economy that no one's really predicting right now we're going to have some tough choices to make and I hope we'll do it in a bipartisan manner."

The predictions came during the first of four days lawmakers will hold hearings on the budget.