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House approves budget with state worker raise

March 15, 2022 GMT

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a record general fund budget that includes a 4% pay raise for state employees.

Representatives approved the spending plan without a dissenting vote. The budget now goes to a conference committee to work out differences between the House and Senate versions.

House Ways and Means General Fund Chairman Steve Clouse said the $2.7 billion general fund budget is “the largest general fund budget ever passed.” The growth was fueled by economic recovery and increase in internet sales tax collections.

“We’ve really recovered a tremendous amount since the downturn of ’08,” Clouse, a Republican from Ozark, said referencing the period that the general fund shrank down to $1.6 billion

The budget includes a 4% pay raise for state employees.

Most state agencies also would see a funding increase. Under the House-passed plan, the Alabama Medicaid Agency would get funding to provide 12 months of postpartum care to new mothers.

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Clouse said that will put Alabama more in line with other states. He called the funding a pilot program and lawmakers will review how it works.

Medicaid pays for about half of all births in the state because of the mother’s income and lack of private insurance.

Health coverage for the woman now ends at 60 days after delivery. Advocates say that is before many pregnancy-related complications surface.

“Sixty days of postpartum healthcare, or even six months, doesn’t give healthcare providers, moms or babies the chance to effectively address health issues like getting your blood pressure under control or that postpartum depression that they may experience,” Jada Shaffer, the regional director of governmental relations for the American Heart Association, said at a rally last week.

Alabama’s Medicaid program covers very few able-bodied adults. Alabama is one of 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The Department of Mental Health is also seeing one of the larger increases in the pending budget. The department is getting an additional $12 million for the construction of two new crisis intervention centers.