Nursing Homes; add a $400 per bed fee generating an estimated $8 million a year for Medicaid.
Prescription Fee for Pharmacies; add a tax of 15-cents per prescription, generating an estimated $8 million a year for Medicaid.
Business Privilege Tax; raise the maximum business privilege tax from $15,000 to $30,000; exempts businesses with net worth less than $10,000 from paying the minimum, generating an estimated $22 million a year.
Cigarette Tax; raise by 25 cents a pack, from 42.5 cents to 67.5 cents, generating an estimated $66 million a year.
Car Title Fee; increase the fee from $15 to $28, generating an estimated $19 million a year.
Car Rental Tax; increase from 1.5 percent to 2 percent, generating an estimated $6 million a year.
The Senate General Fund Committee met today to debate and eventually passed several bills out of committee. These bills could be debated by the full Senate as early as tomorrow.
Bills of note include:
SB1 – the Alabama Recurring Revenue Fund which essentially places all state revenue in a single pot and then splits the funds 78% to the Education Trust Fund and 22% to the General Fund. While this is a great step in the right direction toward fundamental budget reform, I did not support the bill because – as currently written – it would take funds from the Education Budget Stabilization Act, aka the Rolling Reserve, which we established several years ago. The intent then was to smooth the ups and downs of education budgeting in off years, forcing the state to set aside funding from good years to rely on in bad years. The fund has only begun to accumulate savings and to support moving those funds goes against everything we said we wouldn’t do when the Rolling Reserve was established.
A bill I’m sponsoring, SB24, establishes an administrative procedure requiring state departments or agencies that plan to close a local/regional office or facility such as a park to follow the Administrative Procedure Act. This bill accomplishes a couple of things in addressing the posturing of some agencies, threatening to close state parks or driver’s license offices should their agency’s budget be cut. First, it ensures the representatives of the people are involved in the decision making process proposing the closure of an office or facility. Secondly, it places in full light the debate of which offices or facilities are being proposed and will ensure the people most affected by a proposed closure have representation in the process. In short, passage of this bill prevents the threatened overnight closing of any state office or state park. This bill passed committee 13-0 and could be debated on the Senate Floor for passage as early as tomorrow.
It is somewhat ironic that I’ll chair the monthly Legislative Contract Review Committee as the legislature continues to work to find a balanced budget solution for the new fiscal year which starts on October 1st. The irony? The committee will review over $71 million dollars of contracts that go into effect AFTER the start of the new fiscal year. The committee was scheduled to meet earlier in the month but was rescheduled to when the legislature would be in special session as a cost savings measure. You may review the agenda at this link.
Semper Fi - Bill