Residents along Alabama’s coast are scheduling to begin evacuating at 8 a.m. this morning. Governor Robert Bentley has declared a state of emergency and ordered mandatory evacuations ahead of Tropical Storm Isaac. The order covers much of southern Baldwin and Mobile counties, including the cities of Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Dauphin Island and Bayou La Batre. It does NOT cover Mobile. Current tracking has the storm making landfall in Louisiana some time tomorrow, but Alabama’s coastal areas are under a hurricane warning, and forecasters say strong wind and heavy rain could extend miles inland.
The man who is temporarily overseeing funding for Alabama’s health care program for the poor says Medicaid will be in deep trouble if voters do not approve a September 18 referendum to take more than $437 million from a state trust fund and use it to prevent huge cuts in spending on state programs for three years. State Health Officer Don Williamson says without the money from the trust fund the Medicaid program will be $100 million in the red. He says this could jeopardize programs that provide medicine for poor patients, reduce payments for doctors who treat Medicaid patients, send more poor patients to emergency rooms and eliminate optional Medicaid programs such as providing life-saving dialysis treatment. Opponents say the crisis can be solved without raiding the state’s savings.
The Alabama Department of Transportation is getting more than $51 million to be used for road work. The Birmingham News reports the money comes from old federal earmarks that have gone unused around the state. The Obama administration identified $473 million in unspent earmarks around the country and ordered states to come up with a plan for the money by the end of the year. Otherwise the funds go to other states. All 33 projects on Alabama’s list were contained in transportation spending bills from 2004, 2005 and 2006. Among the projects that are losing their earmarks are the Memphis to Atlanta highway and a connector from U.S. 231 to Interstate 10. Some local officials say they’ll argue to keep their money, but state officials aren’t making any guarantees.