The State Senate passed an amended supplemental education budget on Thursday that included $275 million for tax rebates at $100 per Alabama taxpayer.

The amended legislation includes approximately $2.8 billion in appropriations to K-12 schools, community colleges, four-year colleges and some miscellaneous projects.

Finance and Taxation Education Committee Chairman State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) said, "For you new members, this is an unprecedented budget in an unprecedented time." 

"No budget is perfect, but at least we have something. [We] still need to make changes in the House on a few items, but we will soldier on," Orr said on the floor.

There was a lengthy discussion on the Senate floor over the size of the tax rebate included in the budget and over a couple of projects in Gov. Kay Ivey's budget proposal but left out of the Senate version.

"I think that we can do a whole lot more with $275 million (the cost of the rebate) than what we're doing now, people. We could be using this money to invest it in a whole lot of more stuff," Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) said on Thursday.

Appropriations for a healthcare sciences school in Demopolis and a $25 million appropriation to the Montgomery County Commission for "economic development" were left out of the bill passed on Wednesday. A $500,000 feasibility study regarding the establishment of a residency program for healthcare services in rural Alabama was included in the bill.

State Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road) said his concern about the supplemental budget "is primarily from a geographical standpoint."

"My concern is this body hear and understand the concerns of Montgomery and the effects that Montgomery has on the River Region, Central Alabama, and this state as a whole. One of the concerns with what we're doing or not doing in Montgomery from an appropriations standpoint is Maxwell Air Force Base," Barfoot said. "I have heard from countless military families who believe that an investment needs to be made in the Montgomery area in order to continue to support the mission at Maxwell. That's important because although it's not planes it is relevant to continue to make sure that the environment that those Airmen and their families and the civil servants that come to Maxwell have an opportunity, not only for a good education, but for them to be able to enjoy themselves while they're here. In fact, that is part of the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) Commission, as I understand it, checklist. So as Maxwell goes, not only does Montgomery go, but Central Alabama goes, and so goes the state. I would urge this body to consider the importance of Maxwell, the economic impact that Montgomery and the surrounding areas have on the state, and the geographical disparities that we sometimes see in the budgets."

State Sen. Kirk Hatcher (D-Montgomery) said on Thursday on the Senate floor, "I am very concerned that somehow Montgomery, the Capital city, was completely left out of the supplemental." 

"I'm pleading for help from this body to help us resolve this issue expeditiously," Hatcher said.

How much of the funding in the bill would go to the Montgomery Whitewater Park was the subject of debate at the State House over the last month. $5 million for the financially beleaguered World Games in Birmingham also didn't make the cut. $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.

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