On this Sunday Discussion, I wanted to talk about three different political stories from political leaders here in the great and wonderful state of Alabama. First off, the Alabama Legislative session is now over, and our political leaders did not have the donkey balls to do what is right, for now. They passed the huge cuts general fund budget and left Montgomery. The governor vetoed the general fund budget and there will be a special session later this Summer. If this is the overall spending plan, prisons will be taken over by the feds, state parks will close, those with mental health disabilities will be left in the dust, and all state services other than education will be screwed.
Let’s start with Sen. Phil Williams from Rainbow City, who wrote an article suggesting ways to balance the general fund budget without raising taxes or allowing gambling. What is he smoking, because without either raising some taxes, or allowing a lottery and gambling, there is no possible way to fix the general fund problems? So he suggested seven different ways to raise over $250 million in the general fund. Ha ha, let’s run them down!
1. Allow the two budgets to share the growth revenues in an 80-20 split. This would keep education spending at or above current levels and still generate a surplus for the education budget while putting up to $150 million in the General Fund.
Wow, what a great promise! Taking even more money from schools and sending it to prisons. What a great plan! Public education in Alabama has already been cut the second highest with only Oklahoma being higher. Our schools cannot be cut even more, unless you want the feds to come take that over too.
2. Get the state out of the alcohol sales business. This would generate up to $18 million in savings.
Um, did you now that the ABC Beverage stores actually make money and add revenue to the general fund? So, where is that figure of $18 million of savings? Because closing down all the ABC stores will make the general fund hole even bigger.
3. Allow Alabama’s Forever Wild program to assist with State Parks. This could relieve the General Fund of $8 million in parks-related bond debt.
The Alabama Forever Wild program has been great in Alabama. Without it, the Coldwater Mountain bike trails would not exist. So, harm the Coldwater bike trails to keep Cheaha State Park open, the leaders in Anniston would be thrilled!
4. Pass the so-called “Amazon” bill that would establish the procedures for collection of online sales tax (which are already required by law). The unfortunate circumstance we are in now is that online retailers don’t have a uniform way to provide those required taxes without this bill. This would bring upwards of an additional $20 million to the General Fund.
Unless the United States Congress passes legislation to allow the collection of internet sales taxes, this Amazon bill will not happen. Maybe it’s time for Alabama to do something dramatic, and quit relying on too high sales taxes, and reform our property taxes so those with large land ownings pays their fair share.
5. Pass legislation that allows state agencies whose fees for services have not been raised in over 10 years to do so with legislative oversight on a one-time basis and capped by the consumer price index. The forecast on this measure is a potential $63 million increase to the General Fund.
In other words, a backdoor tax increase. This is what Alabama has done a lot lately, have political leaders say they will not raise taxes, but allow fees to raise dramatically so people can’t pay them. Why not reform our tax codes so the rich and corporations pay their fair share?
6. Curb entitlement spending by putting a cap on Medicaid spending at 10 percent of the budget to ensure that it does not continue to escalate to unmanageable levels. This change to Medicaid would complement the recent reforms passed by the legislature and actually allow for increased levels of spending, ensure continuity of services and give predictability to the budget.
In other words, make the poor suffer even more, when they have to suffer with pain and misery, because our state government has not done the right thing and expand Medicaid. Here is something you need to know, without Medicaid; just about all hospitals in Alabama will close.
7. Fully fund the recently passed Prison Reform Act that is designed to relieve the budgetary crisis in our state’s corrections system and avoid millions in federal penalties.
If you plan to severely cut the general fund, all of the changes in the Prison Reform Act cannot be enacted, and the feds will be coming in on their high horses to force some changes.
So Senator Phil Williams, why not you quit drinking that tea party wacko sweet tea, and actually suggest some things to improve the general fund crisis. If you need some inspiration, look at what is happening in Kansas, where tax revenue has been cut so much that they are in a major crisis. I guess you are wanting the feds to come in, take over parts of state government that is not running properly, and then tell your voters that the feds are evil, is that right?
But, the suggestions from Sen. Phil Williams are not the only wacky things being suggested. Let’s start with Rep. Mo Brooks, who put out a story saying that Amtrak needs to be cut off from the federal government for good. He actually said that it is time for Amtrak passengers to quit riding on the backs of other taxpayers. For starters, public transportation around the world in all countries is partly funded by governments. It always has to be like this, or there would be no public transportation. And second, without Amtrak, Anniston would be screwed.
The reason, Anniston wants to turn their Amtrak station into a hub for cyclists to ride back to either Birmingham or Atlanta from the Chief Ladiga trail. And if all taxpayer subsidies are taken away from Amtrak, the only thing Amtrak will most likely continue operating is the Northeast Corridor. For everyone else who relies on Amtrak to get around in this country, you are out of luck! When Rep. Mo Brooks says it’s time to “wean Amtrak from the taxpayer nipple”, he means to screw people who rely on public transportation to get around.
And if you think the two people above are weird, it gets better! In Anniston, our house representative is Rep. Mike Rogers. And this week he suggested that the United States should leave the United Nations for good. The reason, the United Nations is an inefficient bureaucracy and attacks our rights as U.S. citizens. Some of the reasons the United Nations is not right for America included the Law of the Sea Treaty, which would subject our country to internationally-based environmental mandates. The Arms Trade Treaty which would impose regulations on our gun manufacturers. There is also the UN wanting international regulation on fossil fuels and he even said the UN does not support Israel and wants Palestinian Authority. What?
So in the opinion of Mike Rogers, who thinks the United Nations is evil, he introduced H.R. 1205, the American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2015, which would end participation in the U.N. and any organizations affiliated with them. So, Mike Rogers wants to have the United States to give the middle finger to every other country around the world and cuss them out. Is that right? The United Nations was created with some help from the United States. They do some great work helping those in need after disasters, and helping to prevent conflicts between other countries and powers.
If the United States leaves the United Nations, it would be a huge black eye for the United States. Many other countries around the world, including our allies, would question such a boneheaded move. And it would increase the chances the United States was attacked on our shores, or more likely in other areas around the world. Because if we leave the United Nations, America will lose a tremendous amount of support from other countries on planet Earth.
I think the biggest reason why Rep. Mike Rogers wants the USA to leave the United Nations is because he is one of those few tea party wacko Republicans who wants this country to go to war with either ISIS, Iran, Russia, or maybe even China. His district, the 3rd District of Alabama, is one of the poorest districts in the United States. Thousands of jobs have disappeared, a reality show was based from unemployed people in the 3rd District, and he wants to do anything possible to increase productivity in the Anniston Army Depot, even if that means troops are killed or injured, and they have to suffer with mental conflicts for years after the war is over.
Great job Mike Rogers, make sure some people gets a paycheck while our troops suffers with deaths, life changing injuries, and depression and suicidal thoughts after they come back from war. I guess some tea party wackos only cares about going to war with other countries not threatening us, just so the economies in some hard hit areas like Anniston can come back.
Hey Mike Rogers, why not concentrate on ways to increase the economic opportunities in your home Anniston / Oxford metro, which is the worst performing small metro area in the United States, without sending troops to a questionable war, Iraq anyone? War is never the answer! So get that “we must go to war and harm our troops” mentality out of you! I wish the voters around here would have the guts to vote you out!
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