- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The Alabama House on Wednesday passed a bill allowing state agencies to increase fees every five years to fund agency operations.

The bill initially failed a procedural vote before being resurrected in a second vote and passing 61-38.

Legislation would allow agencies to request fee increases based on a percentage increase in the consumer price index since the last fee adjustment or over a 10-year period. Changes could not exceed an increase of 2 percent per year.

Alabama lawmakers are still searching for ways to fill a $200 million shortfall in the state’s general fund budget before the end of the legislative session.

“We’re just trying to put a puzzle together,” said House General Fund Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark.

Clouse said he doesn’t know how much the state might raise from the measure because he doesn’t know which agencies will choose to raise fees. He guessed some state agencies haven’t increased certain fees in 30 years.

The bill would not apply to the State Banking Department, Alabama Public Service Commission and the State Parks Division of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Some lawmakers criticized the bill as a guise for taxes.

“You can’t put lipstick on a pig and call it a chicken,” said Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery. “He’s still a pig.”

The Alabama Senate, which already passed the legislation, will next need to approve house revisions.

Legislators have introduced an array of bills this session related to raising revenue for the state. Few have gained traction, and most haven’t been approved. A number of new taxes, a proposal for a state lottery and casinos and a plan to transfer money from the education trust fund to the more cash-strapped general fund have all failed to receive enough support to make it through both the Senate and the House

“Lord help us, we need some money,” said Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham. “Lord come down here and bring us some money, Lord.”

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