CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Opinion

February 22, 2013

EDITORIAL: Dwindling dollars for services

CULLMAN — Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore believes the state judicial system is in danger of crumbling because of the lag in funding that comes from the General Fund.

Frankly, Moore is seeing a trend that may well cripple the court system. While he is partly blaming Gov. Robert Bentley for the problem, the real reasons for the problems rests in the construction of the state’s budgets and the unwillingness of lawmakers to reconsider taxation and the separation of the budgets.

Bentley’s budget proposes to give the court system $100.3 million, which is down from this year’s allotment of $102.8 million. Moore believes the system will be faced with more layoffs, leading to backlogs in cases. The court system has already downsized because of budget woes in the last two years.

Last year the Legislature voted to increase fees on all types of court cases to raise more money for the system. But the money is apparently not coming in at the level lawmakers expected. And there’s little hope that anything will change.

The Alabama Constitution states the judicial system shall receive “adequate and reasonable funding.” But there is no set value on what is adequate or reasonable. Cutbacks have eliminated some court clerks and juvenile probation officers.

The one criticism the governor deserves is the proposal to give teachers a pay raise. With the education budget holding an advantage in funding, employees tied to the General Fund may not see even a glimmer of a raise in the next decade.

Bentley should drop the raise proposal for teachers. Lawmakers should also back away from unreasonable pledges to avoid tax increases. And more importantly, something needs to be done about the unfairness and ineffective nature of the state’s budgets.

Taxation may not be the answer at this point, but any politician who avoids the topic because of ideology is not keeping the state’s best interest at heart. Tackling waste and duplication are certainly priorities in making tax money stretch, but joining the budgets together would also be an important step in clearing up Alabama’s financial issues.

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