Politics & Government

Alabama House debating how to spend oil spill settlement

Alabama legislators on Wednesday debated a plan to use the state’s oil spill settlement money to pay debts and build roads.

The bill, which could also help fill an immediate hole in next year’s Medicaid budget, moves to the full House of Representatives. Lawmakers are trying to reach an agreement after similar legislation faltered in the spring as lawmakers from north and south Alabama feuded over how to use the money.

Alabama will get $1 billion over the next 18 years in settlement funds. Under the bill, the state would take a smaller amount up front — a projected $640 million — by doing a bond issue. About $450 million would be used for debt repayment and $190 million for coastal roads.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Steve Clouse said paying debt early would free up state funds and could help avoid Medicaid cuts. Clouse said it would provide most of the additional $85 million needed by Medicaid.

The House approved a similar plan in April, but could not reach an agreement with the Alabama Senate. Republicans from the House and Senate plan to meet Wednesday as lawmakers strive for an agreement.