North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

September 20, 2012

Our Views: We can’t keep taking from state trust fund

North Jefferson News

AN NJN EDITORIAL — By the time you read this, voters across Alabama — probably not very many of them, given that this is a special election — will have decided whether or not to dip into the state’s equivalent of the pickle jar buried in the back yard.

The Alabama Trust Fund is the repository for the royalties paid by energy companies for oil and gas taken from offshore production. It is used for a number of things, but primarily it has had its assets reinvested over the years, with the capital gains going into the state’s General Fund.

But the state legislature, for whatever reason, has not been able to come up with a balanced budget as required by law. In the bad economy, revenues are not keeping up with expenses. To put it another way, the state is spending more than it is taking in.

So Tuesday’s vote to tap into the Trust Fund each year for the next three years is intended to balance the budget, and keep from having to make drastic cutbacks in a number of programs.

Unfortunately, such a move does not address the original problem: spending more than we have coming in.

Fiscal responsibility is one thing that Republicans campaigned for when they took control of both houses of the legislature. They have yet to make good on that campaign promise.

Montgomery is not like Washington, D.C. in many ways, for which we should probably be thankful. When the federal government spends more than it takes in — which is almost always the case — then it either borrows the money in the form of treasury notes and bonds, or just prints more money, or often both. That’s not a particularly healthy way to run a country, but alas, that is the way things are at the moment.

Alabama can’t do that, and the state must live within its means. If it continues to take from what amounts to a rainy-day fund, someday down the road that fund won’t be there when it is needed again.

Our elected representatives must exercise the fiscal restraint that we citizens do every day of the week.