The Cullman Times
The arrival of Amendment One on Tuesday, Sept. 18, represents a culmination of bad politics and the effects of a prolonged recession that robbed the economy of vital spending and tax receipts.
While this amendment, concocted on the fly by lawmakers desperate to find a bandage for the tattered General Fund, is not the most savory dish to serve Alabama voters, it’s a necessary funding proposal at a critical time in the state’s history.
Passage of the amendment would shift more than $400 million into the General Fund over a three-year period. The money would allow the state to support Medicaid programs that are necessary for seniors and the poor. Prisons could continue to house inmates. The court system would also remain functional and continue to prosecute and dispose of cases in a timely manner.
The alternative to this amendment is to enact proration in the General Fund and start laying off workers and reducing services to Alabamians of many walks of life. This is how business is done in Alabama politics. When changes — those needed for more than a generation — are ignored because of soft wills and political pandering — complex issues are dumped on the public through risky amendment votes.
As one of the few states that still carries two budgets — one for education, the other for everything else — Alabama has been asking for trouble. And that trouble has finally arrived.
The education budget, in good economic years, gets just about every tax dollar generated in the state. The Alabama Education Association and its muscle has seen to that system for many long years. The General Fund gets fees and a few dollars from here and there.
Passage of the amendment is necessary because the political leaders of the state — past and present — have not bothered to reshape the budget process. The three years of payments into the General Fund should be plenty of time for lawmakers to work out some new formulas, cut waste and redundancy in state government, and move the state in a progressive direction.
The newer batch of lawmakers in Montgomery say they want to make some changes. Voting for the amendment would buy them time and a grand opportunity to do something right for the people.