Legislature to tackle tight budget

Published 10:13 pm Friday, January 6, 2012

The Alabama budget will be the key factor discussed when the legislature reconvenes next month in Montgomery, state Rep. Alan Baker said.

Many issues will receive attention in the upcoming session, which will officially begin Tuesday, Feb. 7, but the budget will likely be the first and most pressing item on the agenda according to Baker.

“The general funds budget will have a  $400 million short fall we’ll have to deal with which makes it very challenging,” said Baker, R-Brewton.

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Baker said while fiscal responsibility must be achieved the legislature will also see a host of items that are currently weighing heavily on Alabamians, including the state’s new immigration law.

“There are a lot of previsions and adjustments that need to be made to the bill,” Baker said. “I do think that when bills are passed there is sometimes unforeseen or unintended consequences so I think this not anything that is so abnormal with a bill, to have to go back and tweak certain aspects of it.”

Baker said, while the bill has been controversial, the trickle down affect from Washington’s inability to deal effectively with immigration has made state action an inevitability.

“I feel that immigration should be an issue that should be dealt with at the federal level,” Baker said. “But the federal government has not acted responsibly at enforcing its immigration laws. I think the view has been expressed through polling that Alabamians wanted tougher immigration laws, so the legislature acted upon what Alabamians expressed they wanted.”

Baker said aside from the budget and hashing out the details of immigration laws, the legislature’s highest priority will be the economy.

“Our top focus will be job creation and the economy,” he said. “Anything we can do to drive from the legislative aspect and provide an atmosphere and climate for existing businesses to expand as well as new businesses to come into our state. We’ll be very focused on that.”

Baker said an important aspect of strengthening the state’s economy will be aiding veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in finding employment.

“The military that are coming back from Afghanistan or Iraq, those that are unemployed, we will give a $2,000 credit to businesses that employ those military personnel,” Baker said.