The state budget is insufficientPublished 9:24pm Monday, April 22, 2013
Last week, the Alabama House of Representatives passed the Education Trust Fund; this fund provides money for all things related to public education. This week, the House will turn its attention to the state’s General Fund budget, which funds all state departments, agencies, and programs not related to education. As I have looked over the proposed budget that came out of the Senate, I can’t help but have some major concerns.
One of my concerns is the cuts to our state’s judicial system. This particular concern isn’t a partisan one. Chief Justice Roy Moore, who leads both our state’s Supreme Court and the state’s judicial system, has publicly expressed his concern that if the budget proposed by the Senate becomes law without any additional funding for our courts the state may have to lay off as many as 300 court employees. This will not only impede the judicial process, but it will also have a negative impact on our state’s economy.
Another concern is that the governor and legislative leaders have made it clear that they want to eliminate government jobs – a process they call “rightsizing government.” Perhaps a greater injustice to our state employees is that they will not be getting a long-overdue cost-of-living pay increase this year. In the meanwhile, the cost of living has increased by 7.5 percent. So educators, retirees, and state employees are making about 10 percent less than they were just six years ago.
Yet there remains an even more disturbing issue with the General Fund Budget. We are dangerously close to underfunding Medicaid. Last year, voters had to approve a constitutional amendment to allow the government to borrow from the Alabama Trust Fund just to avoid the Medicaid program from collapsing. This year, we are on the edge of being in the same position. Why? The Governor refuses to expand Medicaid. Not expanding Medicaid is not only irresponsible; it’s insensitive to the needs of the citizens. For every dollar the state spends on Medicaid, the federal government matches it at a rate of more than 2-to-1.
Alabama’s children are especially penalized by this budget. This budget makes drastic cuts to the Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention. This department is the only entity in Alabama that attempts to prevent abuse and neglect before they occur, as opposed to taking care of these children after the abuse and/or neglect takes place.
I am deeply concerned that these budgets are insufficient to meet Alabama’s needs. Yes, times are tough and we have to make some hard decisions. But are these decisions our best alternatives? Are these cuts really in the best interests of the taxpayers?