Happy Easter everybody! While I could talk about why Easter is an important holiday, I am going to talk about something else here in Alabama. And sorry to burst your Easter happy bubble, because this needs to be talked about! Unless you are living under a rock, you know that the Alabama budgets are in deep trouble. The General Fund has a hole up to $700 million dollars. I mean, with Alabama’s wacked up tax code, the General Fund has always struggled because our lawmakers lack the courage to do the right thing, and that thing is to reform our tax codes so everybody pays their fair share.
But this is Alabama, where our property taxes are so low if the state doubled them, we would still have the lowest property taxes in America. The low property taxes benefit the farmers and timber owners, who spend that extra money on lobbying the legislature to make sure the taxes, are not reformed. So now, the lawmakers are facing a big decision. Governor Bentley has said that he wants to add new revenue to help balance the General Fund.
But, there are some lawmakers who are scared and lack the will to do the right thing. And one budget already issued would result in dramatic cuts to the Alabama government. This would be on top of the cuts already made. For example, the mental health department has been cut 36% percent from 2009 to 2012. And there were more cuts made in 2013 and 2014. So, if the legislature passed a budget with no new revenue the mental health department would be cut another 24%. You might as well kiss mental health treatment goodbye in Alabama. How can a department operate with over 60% of the budget cut, it pretty much can’t!
Another agency, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, would be cut 100%! And only rely on federal funds. I guess that is the green light for people and industries to pollute in Alabama. Here is the bottom line. Some legislators are very concerned about the Supreme Court ruling that could force Alabama to redraw the district lines and force new court ordered elections. So because of this, you have many in the Alabama Legislature who are scared of telling their voters that they voted to raise some taxes. So, even if that means that deep cuts are made and the Alabama Government grinds to a halt, you will have some legislators refuse any tax increase.
Already the Alabama budgets are largely supported by the federal government, with 38.16% of the state budget funded by federal tax dollars. If the new budgets are passed with the deep cuts, and the U.S. Congress gets their ways and cuts their budget too, this state is screwed. For example, the state court system has already been cut deep with 400 people already cut. And if the budgets pass as is, the court system would take another 19% percent cut. And the people running the courts have already said the cuts would mean the end of their branch of government.
And making things worse, Governor Bentley has vetoed a bill adding a 5% percent tax to the retail and wholesale price of alcohol and liquor in Calhoun County. The extra funds would have gone to the district attorney, so they can investigate crimes and run the courts, which is something guaranteed in the constitution. But, the Tea Party’s ole pal Grover Norquist rode his magical unicorn to Alabama to help stop this needed tax increase. I mean, if the tax code was more uniform in Alabama, we would not need a tax increase on alcohol in Calhoun County, Alabama!
And making things worse, a bill going through the legislature would repeal an increase in the cost of getting a driver’s license. The cost went up from $23.50 to $36.25 so more state troopers could be on the road. And as of right now, Alabama only has 431 officers when the state needs more than 1000 officers to be fully staffed. If the bill is passed and the fees go down, more officers will not be on the road. And it would mean drivers would have permission to drive like crazy in Alabama. And in Alabama, many people already drive like crazy.
And why not, let’s make things worse! You have seen the coverage of the so called religious freedom bills and states like Indiana and Arkansas seeing what happens when you try to legalize discrimination against LGBT people. Sadly, there is talk of a bill being introduced that would pass a religious freedom bill like the original bill Indiana passed before it was amended. The bill would provide protection to employees, people who work in businesses or own businesses or work in state government, so they cannot be required to provide a product or service to a person or persons in a marriage or a union replicating marriage other than one man and one woman. Yep, if a bill like that is introduced and passed, expect a lot of protests and business pullbacks in Alabama.
So Alabama Legislature, are you going to harm the Alabama economy, and make it harder to have businesses locate to Alabama? Or are you going to grow a pair and do the right thing? Meaning passing real tax reforms so the government can operate and everyone pays their fair share, including the rich? I mean, there are things in government that are essential! I would like to have a health department so I know the restaurant I am eating at is safe, and diseases are kept under control. I would like to have state troopers on the roads so our roads are safe. I would like to have an agriculture department so I know I am getting the right amount of gasoline I am purchasing. I would like to have a court system so everyone has a right to a fair and speedy trial. What I am trying to say is you can’t cut your way to prosperity, you just can’t!
Heck, if these budgets are passed as is without new revenue, prisons would be cut 3%-5% and Medicaid would be cut 3%. You might as well be telling the feds to come take over our prison system. Yes, the state has already cut over 4,000 state employees and over $1 billion in government cost. But, seeing government cut another 15%-30% would mean the state would grind to a halt. People would stand in lines for hours to do simple things like paying their taxes or getting their driver’s license renewed. People with mental issues would not get the help they need. Restaurants would not be inspected regularly and diseases could break out. And you would be left hanging anytime you needed to get work done with the state government.
I am sorry Alabama Legislature; you need to quit listening to the Tea Party wackos, yes I am calling the Tea Party wackos, because they believe no government is good. You need to look at other states to see how major budget cuts are affecting them. In Kansas, schools are closing early because of low funding. And people are starving and suffering because state funding has been dramatically cut. In Minnesota, taxes have gone up slightly, and the result is they have one of the best economies in the Untied States, and people are living a good quality of life.
Sorry Del Marsh, there is no more cutting that can be done. Seriously, there is another 9% that can be cut? I guess you don’t care about the welfare of people in Alabama. Your view of right-sizing government means people will suffer. And the economy will suffer as well. As you have seen in Kansas, lowering taxes and cutting government does not mean you recruit new businesses and jobs. Sometimes, you need to kick aside those conservative principles and do what is right for the people of Alabama. I have little hope you will do the right things, and you will continue to harm this state for years to come.
And I love how you want to take $287 million out of the Education Budget, and move it to the General Fund Budget. I guess you want more schools to ask their kids to bring toilet paper with them. The lawmakers in Alabama need to get over their “no new taxes” mantra and do what is right. It is not going to kill the well off in Alabama to pay a little more in state taxes. And if you don’t want to raise taxes, where is the talk about a lottery in Alabama or maybe legalizing marijuana and taxing it? Doing those two things would solve the budget crisis in a heartbeat.
But, this is conservative Alabama. Where some people believe all gambling and plants like pot are sinful. And many people care about how low those taxes can go, even if that means government grinds to a halt. I will end this post with a message to those Tea Party wackos. Get over it! You need to have a government where it has the funds necessary to operate. If you got your way, government would shut down, and businesses would shut down too. I am sorry, but sometimes you have to pay more taxes to have an essential government. Don’t like it, you can more somewhere else, but you will be paying more in taxes! If the Tea Party got their way, Alabama would be left in ruins. No doubt about that!
Get over it Tea Part wackos, and Happy Easter everybody!
Categories: Sunday Discussion Stuff