MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — From budget surpluses to talk of a special session to the State of the State tonight, it’s been a busy day at the Alabama state capital.
Lawmakers gaveled in, gaveled out and said they won’t be continuing the regular session until March 21 — leaving time for what’s expected to be a special session.
Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed (R – Jasper) all but confirmed that lawmakers will be meeting in a special session these next two weeks to allocate American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money.
“The governor of Alabama is responsible for calling special sessions,” Reed said. “But we did adjourn until the 21st, so that means we’ve got some other activities that we anticipate.”
The state has just over one billion dollars from that federal relief package. Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D – Greensboro) says he’d like to see it spent on infrastructure needs.
“Investing in water, sewer infrastructure, broadband. Those things are still important to my district,” Singleton said. “Put more money into rural hospitals, put more money back into the health care system. So I think those are some of the big top priorities that I see here in the state.”
In addition to allocating that money, lawmakers also have about $2 billion dollars in budget surpluses. In fiscal year 2022, the general fund grew 8.5 percent and the Education Trust Fund more than 20 percent.
Budget chairman Arthur Orr (R – Decatur) says teacher pay raises and tax rebates are on the table.
“With inflation being what it is, families are challenged to make ends meet,” Orr said. “I think it’s good policy for us not to hoard it or spend it all. We need to spend some of that money back to the people.”
Lawmakers say they look forward to the governor’s State of the State and hope to hear her address APRA money, budget surpluses, education and renewing economic incentives. It takes at least five days to pass legislation through both houses, so if a special session happens, it will last a minimum of a week but likely take longer.