In a few days, the Alabama Legislature will begin the first session of the new quadrennium.
In addition to both chambers having to deal with the constitutionally mandated duty of passing budgets, a $2.6 billion surplus leftover from the prior legislative session will also have to be handled.
During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show," State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), the chair of the Senate Education Budget Committee, previewed what to expect over the coming months.
One possibility the Morgan County Republican lawmaker raised was action related to the state grocery and income taxes.
"As far as the budget is concerned, I think you'll see a modest pay raise across the board for educators," he said. "Same for general fund. I think, of course, a lot of debate will be around the surplus money. I think what will happen is we'll probably rebate some. We'll probably put a good bit back for savings – kind of a savings account that we can access under certain conditions. We've already filled up more or less our rainy-day funds. I think we're in good shape as far as that's concerned. I think there will be some tax cuts. You know, I've got several I would like to propose — permanent tax relief and targeted."
"There are some heavy lifts that, if we can get the votes, I think you could see related to the grocery tax, I think reducing the income tax rates," Orr continued. "There is a possibility there that we could maybe get something accomplished. A lot will be moving around, certainly, with the budgets in that regard. But I know, Jeff, for 2025 — we'll be working on the 2024 budget — for 2025, all of the federal money that has been sloshed down from Washington in the education world will have dried up and be gone. So my concern is we may be looking at a situation where the local school boards and school systems will all be looking for replacement dollars for those federal dollars that have dried up and have gone away. And they'll be coming to Montgomery wanting us to keep them whole so they can keep spending at the same level."
"That's another day, another problem but something that we need to make sure we have enough money to address some of that," he added. "And some of that we will just have to say we warned you the federal dollars were not unlimited."
Jeff Poor is the executive editor of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.
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