- Cullman, Alabama

September 18, 2012

EDITORIAL: A vote of need

The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — Politicians and professionals in the health care, judicial and education fields have offered a variety of opinions about today’s lone amendment facing Alabama voters.

The only sure fact in this debate is that — you, the voter — hold the power to decide the fate of an amendment that proposes to take more than $400 million out the Alabama Trust Fund for the sake of propping up the state’s decimated General Fund.

Aside from economic conditions, the General Fund is failing because it is not adequately funded. Most of the tax revenue generated in Alabama is swallowed up by the state’s Education Trust Fund.

While most people agree that education should get a great deal of funding, for sake of giving children a fighting chance in the world, the system that pours money into this budget should make Alabamians angry. The fact that such vital services tied to Medicaid, the courts and the correctional system get scraps is simply not right.

Schools count for a lot in this state, but so do senior citizens, the constitutional right to a speedy trial, resolving of cases for the sake of victims, and the need to keep dangerous criminals incarcerated. Because of the politically-inept budget system in Alabama, funding is not fairly distributed.

The education budget is enjoying a surplus this year, which under a single budget system would have allowed lawmakers to put money where it was needed for other services.

While digging into the state’s savings account — the trust fund — is not a long-term solution to funding — the money is there to be used during hard times. And these are hard times.

Supporting the amendment should be followed up by voters demanding that lawmakers put Alabama’s budget process into a modern, business-like framework that in the future avoids a crisis situation.

Every penny should be repaid to the trust fund in the years ahead, too.

Today, Alabama needs the money for the General Fund because the current system allows no other options except to hack and cut at a budget that is vital to many Alabamians.

Support the amendment today. The state needs the money. When the legislature returns to work in February, a public demand for budget reform should await each member and the governor.