By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Alabama Senator Greg Albritton, recently re-elected to the District 22 seat without opposition, has been named chairman of the state senate’s General Fund Committee, which decides where and how Alabama’s state revenues will be spent.
Albritton, who now lives in Atmore, said the key post is one he had fought for since the 2018 legislative session ended. He added that although he will have to get his feet wet, he is happy that his bid for the position — against some fairly stiff competition — was successful.
“It’s not ceremonial,” he said of the appointment. “I will be coordinating on the General Fund with the House’s Ways and Means General Fund Committee Chairman Steve Clouse, and with the governor. There’s a learning curve, but I’ve been planning this for months. There were at least six, maybe eight, senators who are senior to me who wanted this post. I had a fight on my hands.”
Revenues credited to the General Fund are used for the ordinary expenses of running state government — including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches — for other functions of government, for debt service on certain general obligation bond issues and for capital outlay.
The GF also supports state programs such as child development and protection, criminal justice, conservation efforts, economic development, public health and safety, mental health, Medicaid, legislative activities and the court system.
Taxes from over 40 sources are deposited into the fund. The largest sources are insurance company premium taxes, interest on Alabama Trust Fund and other state deposits, oil and gas lease and production taxes, cigarette taxes, ad valorem taxes and profits from Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board operations.
Albritton said he welcomes the massive amount of work his new position requires. An attorney, he served in the Alabama House from 2002-06 and was elected to his senate post in 2014. He also worked with General Electric Credit Corporation.
And, while that experience should help him in his new position, he said his time in the military will be an even bigger help.
“Actually, I think the Navy — having to account for and be responsible for federal monies, facilities and people — will be the biggest help,” said the second-term state senator, who served as a Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy from 1982 until 1987. “That gave me an insight on how sometimes the government doesn’t work. I think that background helps me a great deal in this.
“But, surprisingly enough, everything we do is governed by law. The budget is not a spreadsheet as many people would have it; the budget is law that is written. All these numbers are interspersed with words, and very often it’s not the dollars that are the tricky part, it’s the words.
“On the other side of it, my previous legislative experience should help. I’ve used my time in the House and the last term in the Senate learning the ‘shell game,’ the ‘hide-and-seek’ of how things work.”
He pointed out that the 2019 legislative session, which formally kicks off on March 6, will determine just how effective he is as committee chairman as he learns the ropes of General Fund Committee chairmanship.
“Sometimes you have 20 bills that you should have read and have questions on by the time you get there (to committee meetings),” he said. “I know that I’m responsible not only for running the committee, but I’m also responsible for how the votes go.”
Albritton explained that he won’t be trying to influence other senators as much as deciding how they would cast their vote on various issues that come before the committee, which hears from every agency, department, division or organization that is seeking state funds.
“I have to decide whether I’m going to do a voice vote, a roll count or something on that line,” he laughed. “It depends on how controversial a bill is, how important it is and who is against it or for it. All those factors come into play. It’s a big job.”