In the aftermath of the 2023 regular legislative session, Alabama lawmakers are touting the accomplishments achieved during the legislature’s three months in Montgomery.

There was worthwhile progress made in areas such as tax relief for citizens, restrictions on environmental, social, and governance policies in state contracts, and expansion of the Alabama Accountability Act scholarship and charter school programs. More work remains, however.

Among the reported victories is that all money owed to the Alabama Trust Fund, which the state can borrow funds from when proration is declared, has been paid off and the state is “debt free.” The last time the state experienced budget proration was in 2012.

However, repaying the last $60 million owed to the trust fund does not truly make the state debt free.

According to the Legislative Services Agency’s 2023 Budget Fact Book, the state owes approximately $557 million in debt service payments this year. Over the next 15 years, the state will pay nearly $7 billion in debt service on general obligation and revenue bonds, assuming that Alabama’s government takes on no new debt during that time.

Repaying the trust fund is a step in the right direction, but lawmakers should work to retire outstanding bond debt ahead of schedule and save taxpayers money.

Cutting taxes is another accomplishment that Alabama lawmakers achieved during the 2023 session.

Reducing the state’s grocery tax from 4% to 2% could save Alabamians more than $300 million annually once fully implemented and will provide relief from record-high food prices. It is the largest tax cut in state history. Exempting overtime wages from state income taxes will allow citizens to take home more of their earnings, potentially motivating employees to work longer hours and alleviating Alabama’s labor shortage. Both are significant legislative victories.

Lawmakers should consider additional reforms to better position the state in the Southeast. Alabama has one of the highest top individual income tax rates in the region. Tennessee and Florida have no state income tax. Mississippi and Georgia have enacted legislation in the past two years that will make their top rates lower than Alabama. In terms of corporate income taxes, Alabama is tied with Tennessee for the highest statutory rate in the Southeast.

If the state wants to remain competitive in attracting new citizens and job creators, lawmakers should pursue additional tax reforms.

Expanding school choice was another major topic entering the 2023 regular session. Lawmakers say that steps taken during the session will provide greater educational opportunity for future generations of Alabama students.

The legislature increased the amount of tax credits available through the Alabama Accountability Act, which provides a maximum of $10,000 in annual scholarships to eligible students to attend private schools or a public school that the student is not zoned for by up to $30 million. The change could provide more choices for 1,000 to 1,200 students each year. Legislation was also enacted that could increase charter school options in the state.

These proposals will expand the options available to some Alabama students, which is progress. But they should not be confused with universal school choice, which would greatly expand the opportunities available to all students, allowing parents to choose the educational environment which best suits the needs of their child. Alabama lawmakers should continue to pursue a wide-ranging school choice program.

There are other areas where lawmakers should focus on making additional strides. An effort to prevent absentee ballot harvesting went undebated in the final days of the session. Bills that would have reformed state government, such as allowing the legislature to call itself into session, making the State Health Officer a cabinet-level appointee and limiting the position’s emergency powers, and reforming the state’s open records law failed to be enacted. The debate on these and other issues should continue.

So yes, there were policy wins during the 2023 session. But lawmakers should continue to push for bolder reforms. For the benefit of all Alabamians, there is more work to be done.

Justin Bogie serves as Fiscal and Budget Reporter for 1819 News. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to: