- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Legislators say a special session on the budget appears inevitable after lawmakers couldn’t reach a revenue agreement Thursday.

Senators adjourned before voting on a bill that would transfer $106 million from the education budget to the cash-strapped general fund. The stalemate comes after months of negotiations over how to fill a $200 million budget shortfall and warnings by Gov. Robert Bentley about the severe cuts to state services that will occur if they don’t.

“Today was a frustrating day,” said Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston. “There are those that are frustrated in the chamber who felt they had a responsible solution that was just totally ignored.”

Senate Finance and Taxation Committee Chairman Sen. Arthur Orr had proposed the tax transfer as a way to bring the state’s five main agencies - Medicaid, prisons, courts, mental health, and department of human resources - to level funding.

The day’s inaction highlighted the disagreement between senators, representatives and Bentley over how to handle the budget shortfall and a blame game that ignited among the Republican politicians. Lawmakers had rejected Bentley’s call for $541 million in new taxes. House GOP members temporarily backed a smaller $151 million tax increase but withdrew it after Marsh said senators would oppose it.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said he thought a special session was inevitable even before the Senate adjourned.

“I believe, and our caucus overwhelmingly believes, that what we need to do is think this through,” Hubbard said. “We can’t just throw things up against the wall right now and see what sticks and hope that it does something. And we certainly don’t want to create a false illusion that we’ve solved the problem because that’s not going to solve the problem.”

A spokeswoman for Bentley said the lack of action was disappointing. “The governor presented a fair and reasonable solution to the budget crisis. Our agencies cannot function with no additional revenue in the general fund,” Jennifer Ardis said.

Marsh said he thinks lawmakers will end up in a special session.

“We’ve been very clear. Apparently, the House and the governor want to pass taxes. I mean, that’s obvious and they’ve pushed that during the session. The will is not up here to pass any more taxes on the people of Alabama,” Marsh said.

Senators were negotiating on the tax-transfer proposal, Marsh said, when the House closed its recording journal, essentially dooming the bill. The closure meant the bill couldn’t get transmitted to the House even if senators approved it.

“We were under the understanding that the House had left the journal open and that was agreed upon to let us conduct business to get that bill down to the House. Suddenly, the journal became closed. Seems suspicious to me, and because of that, we didn’t have time. We could have stayed here until midnight to get that bill downstairs.”

A spokeswoman for Hubbard disagreed and said the House journal was open until after the Senate adjourned.

House Ways and Means General Fund Committee Chairman Rep Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said unless senators have a sudden change of heart on the House tax bills, legislators will either pass a budget with deep cuts or not pass a budget at all this session.

“Either way, we are going into special session,” Clouse said.

Democratic Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, said lawmakers need to find a solution.

“Leadership is going to have to step up and lead,” Figures said. “We need sources of revenue in this state.”

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