I wrote earlier that the top priority for the Alabama Legislature seems to have become funding the state’s prison system. Lots of folks are having a most difficult time understanding that approach. When one considers all of the huge financial problems facing state government, it’s clear that the Legislature’s priorities are way out of kilter. I suspect most of Alabama citizens really believed public education was our state’s top priority. But, it hasn’t been far a long time and that’s a sad state of affairs. Today – in a state that is flat broke – the truth is prisoners are in much better shape than are students and school teachers. That must change and soon.
Our state is badly in need of additional revenues, and that really shouldn’t even be disputed. Essential services of government will be drastically cut, both in the current budget because of proration, and in next year’s budget which will likely be reduced by at least another 25% to 30%. The people of Alabama will suffer tremendously as a result of what is happening in the State House. I don’t believe most folks fully realize what is going on, but they soon will when the drastic cuts in state services begin to take effect.
When prisons become the top priority over children, the elderly, the disabled and all other functions of government, the state’s priorities are definitely misplaced. Reducing the prison population – both short and long range – is certainly needed and it’s something that will require the passage of legislation. Sen. Cam Ward is working on this project. Hopefully, he will be successful. But there are many other critically important issues that must be addressed during the current session. The Medicaid program’s plight should be of great concern to those in control of the House and Senate. It’s a problem that can’t be ignored since it affects all Alabamians, directly or indirectly, and one that will have lasting adverse effects if not dealt with now.
Being an eternal optimist, I still believe that eventually a non-partisan effort will take over in the Statehouse and replace politics as usual. When that happens, the people of Alabama will be the real winners and our children and grandchildren will reap the benefits. I believe most Alabamians agree on this needed approach regardless of political leanings.
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