One thing certain; we get what we pay for

Published 10:19 pm Tuesday, May 3, 2016

In 1857, some 159 years ago, Frederick Douglass said “You may not get all you pay for but you will certainly pay for all you get.” For this Sketches, I hereby shorten this famous saying to, “We get what we pay for.”

Alabama has the lowest per capita tax collection in the United States of America. According to the PARCA Report dated December 4, 2015, Alabama’s state and local taxes per person comes to $3,046. Some Alabamians are very proud of this ranking. All I can say is we get what we pay for.

The Alabama Legislature just passed a general fund budget with an $85 million dollar deficit in Medicaid. This will ultimately mean a $255 million reduction in Medicaid because the $85 million would be matched by a two-to-one ratio in federal dollars. Alabama already has the most meager Medicaid program in the country. In addition, there is a $750 million Medicaid grant to help with RCO’s (Regional Care Organizations) that is conditioned on maintenance of current Medicaid funding. We could lose a billion dollars ( $255 million plus $750 million) because we raise too little revenue to fund government. All I can say is, we get what we pay for.

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Alabama raises $3,046 per year per person through taxes. The average, not the highest in the United States, is $4,599, more than 50 percent higher than Alabama. All the lowest funded states are in the South, and Alabama is the lowest of the lowest. Some of us are so proud of the lowest taxes. We forget that the lowest taxes ultimately produce the lowest services. All I can say is, we get what we pay for.

Alabama’s prison system is a mess. It is woefully underfunded. There are 24,000 prisoners in spaces designed to hold about 13,000. There are far too few correctional officers doing the jobs that require many more. There are far too few parole officers when far more is needed. They are woefully understaffed. More critical, a great danger lurks in all this for every person who works or serves in the corrections system. In addition, there is a danger that the federal courts may take over Alabama’s correction system costing a whole lot more. All because we have the lowest revenue in the country. All I can say is, we get what we pay for.

We cannot fully fund the Alabama court system. It is underfunded by millions of dollars. Personnel for Circuit Clerks and other court related entities have been cut and cut and cut. It has been cut beyond the fat, through the muscle and to the bone. All I can say is, we get what we pay for.

In every phase of Alabama government, it is greatly underfunded: infrastructure resulting in roads and bridges crumbling; public health resulting in more folk being sick and dying; education resulting in children not having school books; mental health resulting in people dangerous to themselves walking the streets. All I can say is, we get what we pay for.