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Alabama Budget On Stronger Footing Than Other States During COVID-19

This story is part of an NPR nationwide analysis of states' revenue and budgets during the pandemic.

Like many states, Alabama's unemployment rate skyrocketed and the economy sputtered after shutdowns prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the economic turmoil, the state's two budgets — the general fund and the education budget — are on reasonably good footing at the moment.

"I won't say I was surprised," said state Rep. Steve Clouse, a Republican who chairs the House general fund budget committee. "We've gotten ourselves in better shape than most states."

Robust tax collections before the pandemic helped. Since then, a jump in online sales tax revenue made up for a loss in other taxes.

The picture for Alabama's education budget won't come into focus until later. Alabama's governor, like the federal government, pushed back the tax filing deadline until July 15, and personal income taxes are a major source of funds for Alabama schools.

Alabama could still feel budget pressure. Coronavirus cases in the state have been growing, prolonged unemployment could increase costs to Medicaid, and the state is under a federal court order to increase staffing in its overcrowded and violent prisons.

Andrew Yeager is a reporter at WBHM in Birmingham, Ala.

Copyright 2020 WBHM 90.3 FM. To see more, visit WBHM 90.3 FM.

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