General Fund Passes, Other Bills Fail

Montgomery, AL – Last night, the Alabama Legislature approved a General Fund for next year ... a budget funded in part by 156 million dollars in new taxes.
The 1-point-4 billion dollar budget increases spending by 196 million dollars over this year. Much of that increased spending will be on the state Medicaid program. The new taxes used to balance the budget include a 26-cents-a-pack hike in the state cigarette tax. The new cigarette tax is expected to generate 88-million dollars a year, and will cost the pack-a-day smoker about 95-extra-dollars a year. Governor Riley says he plans to sign the General Fund as well as the tax increases.
Meanwhile, a number of bill failed to gain consideration on the Legislature's final day, including the controversial "Bingo for Books and Beds" bill. The proposed constitutional amendment would have legalized electronic bingo games with unlimited cash prizes at the state's four dog tracks. The bill passed the Senate, and was pending in the House when the session ended. House Speaker Seth Hammett says it was not included on the work agenda Monday for fear that gambling opponents would have filibustered and killed the state General Fund budget. The bill was expected to raise about 100 million dollars a year for public school textbooks and to pay for Medicaid-funded nursing home beds.
Another bill that died was a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages in Alabama. The bill would have defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. But it never made it to a vote. A supporter of the amendment, Representative Gerald Dial, says he's disappointed because he believes Alabamians are mostly against gay marriages. Dial has said if the amendment did not pass he would reintroduce it in a later session.