Monday, August 31, 2015

The clock is ticking - This budget crisis is a time bomb for Alabama

This Monday marked exactly one month before the state enters full-blown crisis mode without a functional general fund budget. Governor Bentley called a special session to resolve the $300 million budget shortfall, and it was a tremendous failure to say the least. Three different Republican leaders are fixed firmly on three different plans for the state of Alabama, but it seems to me the right hand doesn't understand what the left is doing and nobody is willing to compromise to find the solutions that work for the people of Alabama.

Take, for example, Medicaid funding. Medicaid is one of the largest line items in our state's budget, and we can alleviate a tremendous amount of pressure by accepting federal dollars through Medicaid expansion. This is no different than federal dollars we already accept for schools, roads and other projects, except that it would provide hundreds of thousands of Alabamians with health coverage and save nearly 300 people each year from dying due to lack of care.

Or consider the state's $300 million budget shortfall. For years we've borrowed from Peter to pay Paul, and we can't put off paying the piper, but nobody can come to an agreement on where to get the money. The Governor is calling for taxes, the Senate is calling for gambling and the Speaker is calling for deeper budget cuts, but all of these plans will be worthless without the votes to pass them before the clock runs out.

The truth of the matter is that State of Alabama is facing a tremendous budget crisis, and it appears our leaders are too preoccupied with their own agendas to handle the situation appropriately. Now that the people are learning what this will mean, alarm bells are sounding and the voters are waking up:

This means that all but four driver's license offices will close--so if you live in Dallas county, make plans to take off work and drive to Montgomery to wait in line for the day.

This means that we'll have fewer State Troopers to keep our roadways safe--so you better hope you're not in an accident when you're making the long-distance drive for the license renewal.

This means that our state parks will be closing--so if you enjoy taking your kids out for some fresh air on the weekends, you better find another option.

When voters went to the ballot box and chose their leadership in 2014, they chose who to hire to do a job for the State. A big part of that job is doing the business of the State of Alabama--most importantly, passing a budget. The Republican supermajorities ran on the platform of fiscal responsibility, yet now they're turning around and asking you to get less services for the same tax dollars you've always paid.

There's nothing Conservative about that, and there's certainly nothing right about that.

We have 30 days to fix this mess, and I hope the people of Alabama will stand beside common-sense solutions and reject the political posturing by the Republicans.

This is truly a life-or-death situation for thousands of people, and the clock is ticking.

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