After failing to resolve the more than $200 million deficit in the state’s General Fund budget during the regular session, Alabama legislators were called back into a special session by Gov. Robert Bentley in July. The special session was an unequivocal failure, ending on August 11 with no general fund budget in place. This is absolutely indefensible and should be unacceptable to all involved.
The House defeated a proposal to slash the General Fund budget as a way to “solve” the budget deficit, a plan that would have cut essential funding from programs including Medicaid, Mental Health, Public Health, the Court system, and Public Safety. The proposal was defeated by a vote of 92-2, although it’s likely that even had it passed it wouldn’t have gone much further, as Gov. Bentley had vowed to veto it. The governor vetoed the first budget the legislature passed in June, which was much the same.
Instead of trying to make more cuts, which is essentially like trying to get blood from a stone at this point, Gov. Bentley proposed just over $300 million in tax increases, including a cigarette tax and a business privilege tax. The governor also opposes efforts to resurrect the idea of a lottery or casino-type gambling as a fix for the state’s financial woes. Governor Bentley said he sees new taxes as the long-term solution for the General Fund, as a source of revenue, and I totally agree with him.
If legislators attempt to address the budget shortfall only with more cuts, the adverse effects on the lives of Alabamians will be drastic. Cuts to Medicaid will affect not only individuals but hospitals that depend on that revenue to operate. On average, Gov. Bentley says that 16 percent of the money for hospital operation comes from Medicaid. At Children’s of Alabama, the percentage of patients who receive Medicaid funding is even higher, at just about 50 percent. Without available funds, hospitals will be unable to employ physicians or even stay open in some cases, cutting essential services. Speaking at a civic club in Birmingham after the failed session, Gov. Bentley noted:
This is about the lives of people. It’s not about organizations or agencies It’s about the people served by those agencies. It’s about whether there are enough troopers on the roads to help you if you have an accident. It’s about whether our children get immunizations or not. It’s about people, folks.
Gov. Bentley is preparing to call another second session, although no date has been set as of press time for this publication. It’s expected to be after Labor Day. The General Fund pays for almost all state services not related to public schools and colleges. A budget must be approved in time to meet the beginning of the fiscal year October 1. It’s time for the legislators to face reality and address the budget problems that have been building up for years to this climax. They need to adequately fund the state government operations and do so during the upcoming special session. I don’t believe another failure will not be tolerated very well by the people of Alabama.
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.