Sometimes it’s interesting and revealing to compare how people feel about issues facing government and how our elected officials react to those very same issues. The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) did a survey of Alabama citizens that assessed the public’s response to the budget problems facing state government. The survey was completed earlier in the year and there were very few surprises in the attitudes of citizen across the state.
The survey revealed that the most important issues for the Alabama Legislature to address this year were economic in nature. Jobs and the state’s economy topped the list, with over a third of those surveyed responding in that area. One-fifth identified education as a top priority. Nearly 10% considered the budget shortfall or proration most important. None of this should come as a big surprise.
In the survey, special attention was put on how funds should be spent in state budgets. The respondents identified four major areas of government investment of taxpayer dollars. Those were:
• Education was said to be the most important area of government service.
• Healthcare was second in importance.
• Public Safety was next as a priority for spending.
• Highways – both new construction and maintenance of existing roadways – came in last on the list.
Over the years there has been much debate over the earmarking of revenues in state government for specific uses. Interestingly, two-thirds of those surveyed in this poll identified the earmarking of revenues as a good thing. The areas where the respondents felt funds should be earmarked were education, healthcare, highways and public safety in that order.
It was very clear from the survey that Alabama citizens don’t like proration and don’t favor this approach as a means of keeping Alabama’s budgets in balance. A majority of the citizens prefer to balance the budget in some other manner. Less than 40% indicated that across the board cuts was a good way to balance the budget. This is in keeping with the priorities for spending that were identified from the survey. Another interesting finding was that more people expressed a willingness to pay additional taxes to support public education. That was a mild surprise, but when you consider what’s needed for the future good of our state, it really shouldn’t be. In any event, it might be interesting to compare the results of this survey with the performance of state government in the months that followed the taking of the poll.
Source: The Advisor
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