The Alabama Legislature will be facing some tough financial decisions during the regular session which began this month. The Education Trust Fund, which funds public education in Alabama, has been reduced by $1.5 billion, a huge amount, over the last several years. But, the full force of these reductions failed to hit the education community. That’s because the Federal Government provided a billion dollars in stimulus funds over the last two years. Now, there are no more stimulus monies and that puts Alabama in a real bind. State Legislators will have to cut the next education budget by some $500 million after they cut everything that could possibly be cut out of the budget. When you consider that education has to be a priority for our state leaders and is critically important to our state’s future, I wonder what will happen.
Unfortunately, the General Fund budget is worse off than the education budget. Medicaid alone needs $235 million to maintain current levels of health care. The Department of Corrections needs $72 million to avoid releasing thousands of prisoners. Maintaining current levels of service requires $700 million. It will be difficult to choose between reducing health care for our poor and releasing prisoners on one hand and cutting other needed governmental services on the other hand. This will be a very tough session for all concerned.
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