MONTGOMERY — Members of the Finance and Taxation Senate Committee passed an amended supplemental education budget Wednesday that didn't include some controversial projects in Gov. Kay Ivey's budget proposal.
The amended legislation includes approximately $2.8 billion in appropriations to K-12 schools, community colleges, four-year colleges, and some miscellaneous projects.
"I would have to say categorically and without reservation this has been the most trying budget in my illustrious 12 former years in serving in this capacity as chairman of a budget," State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) said.
The amended supplemental education budget included some new appropriations, such as $30 million in funding for a loan program for "distressed higher education schools" that would be under the purview of the Alabama State Treasurer's Office. A separate bill by State Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) establishing the loan program was also passed out of the same committee on Wednesday.
Initially, Birmingham-Southern College asked for $30 million from the state to keep the private four-year college afloat.
Waggoner told 1819 News on Wednesday chances were good the loan program legislation would pass the Senate.
"That's what they're looking at. It's not in concrete yet but that's approximately. I'd say $30ish (million)," Waggoner said. "It came out of committee with no negative votes this morning. I think it's positive."
The amended education budget bill did not include $25 million originally earmarked for the Montgomery Whitewater Park and $5 million for the financially beleaguered World Games in Birmingham. $31 million originally in Ivey's proposal for the Mobile Airport Authority to relocate commercial airline operations to the Mobile Downtown Airport is also no longer in the amended bill.
$100 million for prison construction on educational and vocational facilities in Elmore and Escambia County projects remained in the supplemental budget.
State Sen. Kirk Hatcher (D-Montgomery) said on the Senate floor on Wednesday he recalls "a couple of months ago when a couple of us from the Montgomery delegation met with Gov. Ivey and others and the staff around issues concerning infrastructure really."
"This is the Capital city and for the Capital city to not have any of what was requested from the Governor’s office that we walked away from that meeting believing would be in there is absolutely an abomination," Hatcher said. "I am not very happy about it and normally I’m a fairly chill brother."
Waggoner said, "We still have another option" when it comes to the World Games payment.
"It's not dead yet," he said. "I'd rather not say at this point."
The education supplemental legislation also now includes a slimmed-down one-time tax rebate. Ivey wanted to send out $400 to single taxpayers and $800 to those filing jointly for a total cost to the state of $1 billion. The committee reduced that total to $275 million on Wednesday, which would amount to a little over $100 in a rebate check for taxpayers.
Separate legislation was filed last with all State Senators as co-sponsors, gradually reducing the state portion of the grocery tax from 4% to 2%.
The committee also approved legislation establishing a K-12 Capital Grant Program within the Lieutenant Governor's Office that would "provide grants to eligible school systems to assist with capital projects, deferred maintenance, or technology needs." If the legislation becomes law, the program is slated to receive $185 million in the supplemental education budget.
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
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