Alabama Legislators Playing Kick the Can (Vote No 9/18/12)

This is going to be a down and dirty, quick to the point post. Before I get to the main point, however, let me just say that I am not going to get into the details of how funding works in Alabama. We have the General Fund, the Rainy Day Trust Fund, the Forever Wild Trust Fund, and more. Suffice it to say it’s complicated and messy.* If you really want to know more, take a look at the chronological analysis put together by the Alabama Forestry Association (here). Moving on.

Citizens in Alabama (expected turnout is 20%) will be voting on Tuesday, September 18, 2012, on whether or not to amend the State Constitution. The proposed amendment reads as follows (from AL-SOS):

Shall the following Amendment be adopted to the Constitution of Alabama?
Proposed Statewide Amendment
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to provide adequate funding for the State General Fund budget, to prevent the mass release of prisoners from Alabama prisons, and to protect critical health services to Alabama children, elderly, and mothers by transferring funds from the Alabama Trust Fund to the State General Fund beginning with the state’s 2012-2013 fiscal year and concluding with the state’s 2014-2015 fiscal year; to provide a new procedure for distributions made from the Alabama Trust Fund beginning 2012-2013 fiscal year; to create a County and Municipal Government Capital Improvement Trust Fund advisory committee; and to provide further for distributions made from the County and Municipal Government Capital Improvement Trust Fund.

Notice there is no provision for paying the borrowed funds back as has been pointed out by most of the conservative groups in Alabama who oppose the amendment. That would be groups like Alabama Federation of Republican Women, Smart Girl Politics (AL), Eagle Forum (AL), Allied Women (AL), Alabama Policy Institute, Rainy Day Patriots and other tea parties across the state, Congressman Mo Brooks, Alabama Forestry Association, State Sen. Beason, State Sen. Bussman and many more.

If that’s not reason enough, consider that the AEA (the single most corrupt organization in the state with the possible exception of anyone and everyone involved in pushing gambling) and the Alabama Democratic Party (virtually the same as the AEA) have endorsed the Amendment. From Fox6:

Friday, the Alabama State Employees Association came out in support of the amendment. Rep. Craig Ford, the minority leaders in the House of Representatives urged voters to say no. Ford says the legislature’s republican leadership has failed to solve the state’s problems. The Alabama Democratic Party has endorsed the amendment. The Alabama Republican Party has not taken a position on the vote.

Additionally, state GOP legislators have resorted to liberal Chicken Little scare tactics rather than do their jobs of making the tough budget cuts necessary to live within our means. Prisons and nursing homes will close. I’ve got an idea. How about you cut the $650K Weight Watchers program for state employees and teachers before you borrow more money? See AndalusiaStar.

From the API article linked below:

The state already owes at least $599 million to the ATF from prior borrowing. If politicians did pass legislation to repay the $437.4 million, Alabama would owe the ATF over $1 billion. With the escalating costs of large programs such as Medicaid and state employee pensions and benefits, the additional debt to the ATF will likely be another “budgetary crisis” for another set of politicians to deal with in the future.

In addition, approval of the September 18th amendment will also permanently reduce the amount of oil and gas royalties going into the ATF. Currently, 65 percent of Alabama’s oil and gas royalties go to the ATF. If the amendment passes, 33 percent of the royalties will be passed through the ATF directly to the General Fund and other recipients leaving only 32 percent going into the ATF.

Supporters of the amendment argue that this massive withdrawal is necessary to bail out the state’s General Fund budget which has a shortfall of at least $145.8 million in the 2013 fiscal year. They claim that approval of the amendment is necessary “…to prevent the mass release of prisoners from Alabama prisons, and to protect critical health services to Alabama children, elderly, and mothers,” i.e. closing rural hospitals and nursing homes. They also claim that taking $437 million out of the ATF is essential for Alabama’s economy and that it will save over 10,000 jobs.

If the shortfall in the 2013 budget is only $145.8 million, Alabama voters should ask why the amendment will take three times as much money.

The simple answer is that since several one-time injections of money, including the federal stimulus, have run out, supporters of the September 18th amendment are looking to use the ATF not only to bail out the 2013 budget, but also to give them an extra $145.8 million per year to bail out the following two years’ budgets. While leaders in Montgomery may fully intend to make the reforms to state government needed to reduce waste and inefficiency, giving them another $145.8 million per year significantly reduces the incentive to push through the tough but fair reforms that other states have made.

More information is available from:

AL Federation of Republican Women – here

Alabama Policy Institute – here

Senator Scott Beason – here

AFA – here

*As I understand it, Alabama revenues are earmarked more than most states with 85% marked for education, leaving just 15% for all other services. Conservatives advise our state GOP majority to stop caving to the long-time stranglehold the AEA has on legislators of both sides and pass a bill to change it.