Legislature leaning on one-time-money to balance budget - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Legislature leaning on one-time-money to balance budget

(Source: MGN online) (Source: MGN online)

Gov. Robert Bentley and an Alabama House Committee have both recommended increasing spending, even though the state barely has enough money coming to pay for it.

In 2014, House and executive branch budget writers want slightly more than $1.8 billion to be spent on all non-education agencies, up from $1.76 million for fiscal year 2013.

The budget is dependent on $273 million in one-time-money with no guarantee that the cash will be there next year to pay for many of the same obligations.

"We are going to be out of that business soon," House Speaker Mike Hubbard told reporters Thursday afternoon of the practice of depending on one-time-money for recurring expenses.

"There are some funds that were found but I think that we pretty much exhausted it," Hubbard said.

Rep. Hubbard also added that it is difficult to craft balanced budgets with them split up into two separate funds.

Of the $273 million that lawmakers and the governor are borrowing in the proposed 2015 fiscal year spending plan, $145.7 million came through a transfer from the Alabama Trust Fund. Voters approved the transaction during a 2012 election.

The other $128 million came from other sources and transfers including $42 million in unclaimed property from the Alabama State Treasurer and $21 million from the 21st Century Fund which is related to bond financing.

Gov. Robert Bentley's office refutes calling some figures "one-time-money" because they've been used in the past to pay for state agencies within the General Fund, even though the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office refers to them as such.

"The General Fund receives revenue from these two sources in every fiscal year, although the amounts vary based upon the net amount collected from the revenue source," said Yasamie August, Gov. Bentley's Press Secretary. "This is no different from any other source of revenue to the General Fund."

Rep. Craig Ford, (D – Etowah), the House Minority Leader said he doesn't think there's any appetite for any Democrat-sponsored proposals to help to balance the General Fund in the future.

"They're the ones in leadership now," Rep. Ford said. "The General Fund is lacking money and they're the ones who are going to have to address those issues."

Democrats controlled the Alabama Legislature for 136 years and in the final years of their control they borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for education and state programs, exhausting some of the state's reserve accounts.

The Legislative Fiscal Office projected an $84 million shortfall for the 2015 budget, however the governor and House budget writers say by using the one-time-sources, they can avoid deep budget cuts.

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