When the Alabama Legislature comes back to Montgomery for the Regular Session next month, they will find a number of problems awaiting them. Perhaps the biggest, which looms over everything else, is the enormous General Fund budget deficit. As of Oct. 1, it’s expected to total around $265 million. Considering the General Fund is expected to fund essential systems including the judiciary, prisons, Medicaid and state troopers, this is indeed a quandary. Maybe it’s time to start establishing both short and long range priorities in state government.
Meanwhile, the state’s debt continues to grow. It is estimated Alabama prisons will need $40 million more. Medicaid is taking a huge bite of the budget, with $100 million required. Another big chunk is tied to paying back other money already borrowed from the state’s Rainy Day Fund in 2010 – a whopping $160 million. Borrowing money is not the answer to the state’s problems.
Interestingly, experts say there may be a saving grace on the horizon, in the form of BP Oil Spill money. The oil giant will either settle with state government to compensate for the damages done to the economy and environment as a result of its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, or go to trial and pay later. Either way, it would bring a nice influx of money into the General Fund and give lawmakers room to breathe. That’s why a settlement is the better course of action for the state. Hopefully, they will use the opportunity to craft a real long-term solution, rather than pushing the state’s fiscal problems further down the line.
There are also a number of issues involving Education facing Alabama legislators in the upcoming session. The Alabama Education Association says raises for educators are a “necessity” for the 2015 legislative session. The organization points out active educators have gotten pay cuts, rather than raises, in recent years, and retired educators have not received cost-of-living or any other increase since 2007.
Legislators also are expected to be faced with a continuing debate about charter schools. Supporters say charter schools or a voucher program will provide vital options for families, whose neighborhood or “zoned” school may not meet their child’s needs. They say charter schools will help foster innovation and new ways of thinking about education, rather than following a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all standardized system of education. Opponents of charter schools say the model will pull money out of public schools that most need it, and will corporatize education. They argue charter schools do not have adequate oversight, and leave special needs students and programs behind. I tend to oppose charter schools and hope the legislators will make public education their top priority.
There is no doubt the challenges facing the legislature are many. Will legislators have the answers, or will this session turn out to be another round of “business as usual,” with lots of playing the blame game? Alabama voters need to pay attention and get involved. Things must change or Alabama will continue to fall further and further behind. I predict that Gov. Robert Bentley will rise to the occasion and take some courageous stands on problems that former governors in recent times have not been willing to face. I have tremendous confidence in Gov. Bentley and believe he will do the right thing for Alabama.
Sources: al.com, mlive.com
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.