Legislative session preview: lawmaker encouraged by budget; no gas tax bill filed yet

Legislative session preview: lawmaker encouraged by budget; no gas tax bill filed yet
Legislative session preview: lawmaker encouraged by budget; no gas tax bill filed yet

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - State lawmakers are gearing up for the legislative session in 32 days, and we are following what they want to accomplish.

A top concern for many lawmakers is the budgets. State agencies and departments presented their budget updates and requests this week.

“I’m encouraged more so than when I was when I left back in March when the session ended,” said Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, the House general fund budget chairman.

Clouse said this after hearing the Alabama Medicaid Agency, which takes up around 40 percent of the budget, will not request as much money as he thought because of excess money the agency will receive. Medicaid is asking for $715 million instead of $821 million.

“I thought we were going to be facing some of the changes in Medicaid that it looks like we’re going to be able to put off for another year," Clouse said. "That was some good news from Medicaid.”

However, Clouse said the legislature still will need to be “cautious” with the budget this year because they will need to address the Medicaid budget the following year.

We’ve heard Republican leaders say there’s interest in a gas tax increase. Republicans Sen. Del Marsh and Rep. Mac McCutcheon have said the governor wants a gas tax.

However, so far no bill has been filed in part because there is controversy on how to divvy up the money.

“I think probably the biggest hold up right now is the distribution, and of course the disagreements between the cities and the counties about where those funds will be distributed," Clouse said. "That’s sort of where the rubber is meeting the road right now.”

Clouse said he has heard some numbers thrown out anywhere from an eight cent gas tax increase to 12 cent increase.

The legislative session will begin March 5.

Copyright 2019 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.