Joint Budget Review Task Force Co-Chairs Want Business-Like Approach to Budgeting

The House and Senate co-chairs of the Joint Legislative Task Force on Budget Reform updated Business Council of Alabama members today on the progress of the committee that was created last year to study state budgeting and taxes and recommend efficiencies.

The BCA schedules Tuesday briefings each week during regular legislative sessions for BCA members featuring legislators and policy makers. Today’s briefing was sponsored by AT&T Alabama.

AT&T’s director of legislative affairs, Cleo Washington, a former Indiana state senator and a licensed attorney, introduced task force co-chairs Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, and Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville.

The 14-member Joint Legislative Task Force on Budget Reform was charged with looking at several potential areas including un-earmarking, biennial budgeting, tax credits, deductions and exemptions, and a zero-based budgeting approach.

Sen. Chambliss, who owns a civil engineering company, and Rep. Garrett, a private-industry chief financial officer, said they want to bring a business-like approach to state budgeting.

“We’re trying to look at everything from a fact-based perspective, not just a political perspective,” Sen. Chambliss said. “Let’s compare ourselves to private industry in Alabama.”

Rep. Garrett said the committee is comprised of five study groups that will examine spending and income for the entire $30 billion state budgets supporting general government and education. Most of the spending is earmarked but about $8 billion is appropriated each year by the House and Senate.

In most years past, appropriations were based on estimates of the next fiscal year’s taxes, fees, and receipts. Currently, the Education Trust Fund budgeting is based on a percentage of prior year spending.

“What we need to do is understand a better way to spend money,” Rep. Garrett said.

The group’s charge is to look at the entire tax structure including tax breaks. Some are decades old.

“Are they still legitimate?” Rep. Garrett asked.

Today, the fifth legislative day of the 2017 regular session, is the day the committee was to report its findings. Rep. Garrett said the committee will give an interim report and seek an extension of its charter originally created by HJR62.