We've heard a lot about the impending budget crisis facing the state of Alabama--we're estimated to fall between $250 million and $700 million short for the next fiscal year.
If the Republicans follow their usual trend, it won't take long before they start blaming President Obama for the entire budget crisis. After all, it's a story many Alabama voters are willing to believe.
So I want to step out front and say very clearly that we have no grounds to blame the President or the federal government. In fact, we owe them a huge "thank you" for keeping Alabama's budget balanced for so long.
Alabama ranks 49th in terms of return on our income tax investment. That measure comes from two statistics: the amount we receive per dollar spent in federal taxes and the percentage of our state budget comprised of federal funds. Based on this measure, we are more dependent on the federal government than every state except New Mexico and Mississippi.
In fact, we receive a little less than $3 for every $1 we send to Washington--that sounds like a pretty good deal to me!
While many Alabama legislators are quick to argue that we need to shrink the size of the "overreaching" federal government, Alabama benefits to the tune of $56.8 billion every year.
Nearly two-thirds of these federal dollars go towards retirement benefits like Social Security, as well as Medicare and food assistance. Federal spending in Alabama amounts to 29.5 percent of our state's gross domestic product.
Because we lean on Washington to balance our state budget, it has helped us keep our state taxes low, which has only perpetuated the cycle of dependence on the federal government.
I think this budget crisis is an opportunity for Alabama's leadership to step up to the plate and fix Alabama for the long haul.
We can't just patch the hole--we have to find a sustainable, long term solution that builds a better Alabama for the future: an Alabama that is less dependent on Washington, an Alabama with first-class education and an Alabama with a balanced, responsible budget.