Laying off employees, cutting benefits and reducing salaries has become the easy way out for politicians who refuse to face reality and take the needed steps required to right the ship of state in Alabama. That’s because those steps would require increasing revenues. The attitude of some of the key legislative leaders on things like The real effect of proration and 25% to 30% budget cuts is troubling. Some of the comments reported recently by the media attributed to several GOP legislators – if true – relating to the plight of the poor and especially children who depend on Medicaid for healthcare services show a lack of compassion and concern for those in our state who are less fortunate and in dire need. But when prisons are the top priority from a budgetary perspective, maybe we should expect this sort of thing.
It’s now quite obvious that there are much bigger financial problems in state government than appeared to be the case when then-Gov. Bob Riley left office in January of 2011. At that time, few people realized what terrible shape the finances of state government were actually in. But most all Alabamians certainly do now. Unfortunately, the current group of legislative leaders have done little – if anything – to remedy a very bad situation. That’s true both for the short and large range. It’s abundantly clear that our state needs:
• A permanent set of priorities that makes and keeps public education the top priority;
• A short-term plan of survival to make it through the current fiscal year;
• Another broader plan to meet the needs of the next fiscal year;
• Additional revenues for the short term;
• A long-range plan which must include both tax reform and additional revenues; and
• Some needed reform of a few government functions.
Hopefully, some good can come from the current financial crisis. Gov. Bentley, and those in control of each legislative body, can use the crisis to really set state government in Alabama on the right course. Our state’s financial problems – the result of poor planning and misplaced priorities, which finally reached the breaking point this year – can be fixed. Hopefully that will happen, and if it does, all Alabamians will be much better off in the long run. Those solving the short-term problems and then establishing a permanent long-range plan would also help themselves politically. But it’s real hard for some career politicians to see past the next election.
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