- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Senators will spend the final days of the legislative session concentrating on the general fund budget, but acknowledge they have no way to avoid deep cuts to state agencies.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said he thinks senators have little appetite for dealing with issues outside the budget. Marsh said he is asking the Legislative Fiscal Office to get him a list of bills that could either save the state money or generate a few dollars for the cash-strapped budget. However, he cautioned it is “not going to make a big change in the overall picture.”

“It’s all about getting a general fund budget passed, and anything that eases that pain helps us with that budget,” Marsh said.

Three meeting days remain in the legislative session. Lawmakers are ending the session the way they began it: without a consensus about what to do on the budget. The general fund faces a projected $200 million shortfall for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Marsh says senators anticipate voting on the budget Thursday.

Some legislators have discussed the possibility of adjourning the session Thursday. Marsh has said that was a possibility, but he wants to see lawmakers stay for the duration.

The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee on Tuesday approved one of the few revenue ideas that have gotten traction this session. A bill that would let state agencies raise fees every five years to reflect changes in the consumer price index. The change may not exceed an increase of 2 percent per year.

Agencies could initially raise fees to reflect consumer price index changes over the last 10 years, or since the last fee increase, whichever period is shorter. Agencies could then seek the increases every five years.

Committee Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said lawmakers do not know how much the proposal would raise.

“We don’t know if the agencies will go up or not,” Clouse said.

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