North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

Opinion

January 31, 2013

Steve Flowers: 2013 is year of financial reckoning for Alabama

COMMENTARY — The state is now two months into the 2013 fiscal year. This is the year that all financial experts pointed to as the year of reckoning. It was postponed for three years because of the Obama administration’s federal deficit spending stimulus spree. This manna from heaven rained down on all of the states and allowed them to temporarily postpone the pain and suffering caused by the national recession, which has raged now for close to a decade.

The state legislature decided to punt and put off for three more years the impending budget shortfall. They asked you to trek to the polls in September and vote to withdraw some of the funds from the only remaining savings account that the state possesses.

The oil and gas trust fund, known as the Alabama Trust Fund, was set up in the 1970’s to preserve the corpus derived from the sale of our oil rights in the Gulf of Mexico. The State General Fund uses the interest from this savings account to live on. The legislature asked you to delve into the principal of this fund to the tune of $450 million over the next three years. Ironically, that is precisely when their four-year terms expire. That is convenient. You benevolently acquiesced to their plan to kick the can down the road and then let the next group of legislators pay the piper. At least the new legislators and any incumbents will be fresh into a new quadrennium before they have to approve of any new tax measures.

The state does not have the luxury of deficit spending like the federal government enjoys. Alabama’s constitution prohibits that folly. We have two budgets. The Education Budget is not in proration. It receives 70 percent of all state revenue as well as the growth taxes. The General Fund is where the train wreck is occurring. With the approval of the September 2012 constitutional amendment, Gov. Bentley and the legislature averted financial Armageddon for the time being.

It is uncertain what more can be cut from the General Fund. They have already slashed teachers’ and state employee’s salaries and benefits. Do you abandon Medicaid? Do you decide that we will be the only state that does not participate in this joint state and federal program? The federal government pays over two dollars for every one dollar Alabama spends. Seventy percent of our nursing home patients and 50 percent of our live births are provided for under this entitlement program. Do you do away with state troopers? Maybe they are a luxury. Do you close all the prisons and release all the convicts and hope they migrate to other states?

There have been a good many cost savings measures enacted by this group of legislators. One resolution was designed to save on the cost of prisons. In the 2012 session, the legislature created a 21-member nonviolent sentencing commission that sets punishing standards for nonviolent crimes that judges would have to follow. This commission will lessen prison time for nonviolent crimes. It is a step forward in reducing an acute prison overcrowding problem. It will yield significant savings.

With very little fanfare, the 2012 legislature passed a bill providing tax breaks for businesses that hire unemployed, recently discharged veterans. The law provides a tax credit of $1,000. It also gives a credit of up to $2,000 to help unemployed veterans cover small business start up costs.

The law applies to veterans who were deployed overseas and who have been discharged in the past two years. The bill was sponsored by Rep. DuWayne Bridges (R-Valley) and is called the “Heroes for Hire” bill.

This legislation continues a long standing devotion of Alabama’s legislature to give benefits to veterans of the military. This pronounced attention to vets goes back to the World War II era and has been continued to today.

It would be difficult to find another state in the nation that recognizes and extends more preferential treatment to veterans than Alabama. In fact, our state merit system is so weighted in favor of military service that if a veteran applies for a state job they will probably be placed first on the register. This military service deference is so ingrained into the rating system for state positions that I advise the political science majors I teach at Troy University that if they want to work for the State of Alabama it would be more advantageous to get two years of military experience than to get a masters degree in public administration.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. He served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Danielle Cater: Bass fishing is just in my blood

    I was born the daughter of a fisherman. My dad was the pastor of a local church and the manager at various Jefferson County Waste Water Treatment plants, but anyone who knows him, knows he is a fisherman at heart.

    July 21, 2014

  • Danielle Cater: Making memories not that hard

    Do you spoil your kids? Do you spend enough on them? What really matters when it comes to the well-being of your children? These questions are real doozies and I think the answers vary according to the family.

    July 9, 2014

  • Danielle Cater: Graduation leads to hard decisions

    The caps and gowns are ordered, the invitations have been mailed. Checks are being written all across the country, it must be graduation time.

    May 29, 2014

  • Danielle Cater: Longevity in marriage still possible

    I have officially seen it with my own eyes. I have witnessed it with my own life. Yes, I have seen a couple who has been married 60 years and still love each other. Even more than that, they still respect each other and still genuinely love to be around each other.

    May 27, 2014

  • Danielle Cater: ‘Girl in the front’ loves her job

    I’m 33 years old. Yes, I just admitted that. The reason I throw this fact out there so freely is that I have now, officially, been working for the North Jefferson News for over 10 years. That’s right, almost 1/3 of my life has been spent behind this desk. (And yes, I’ve had the same desk all 10 years.)

    May 27, 2014

  • Danielle Cater: What memories are you leaving?

    Death hurts. It hurts when it hits close to home and it hurts when it hits the people who are closest to you.

    May 27, 2014

  • Danielle Cater: Life is precious from the beginning

    The media is all abuzz this week over the story of a woman who apparently gave birth to seven babies in the last 10 years without anyone’s knowledge, then killed her babies and stored them in boxes in her garage.

    April 24, 2014

  • Danielle Cater: Be strong in moments of weakness

    A sad scene took place on Sunday at a church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The founding pastor of Calvary Chapel stepped down from his position of head pastor due to “moral failing which disqualifies him from continuing his leadership role at the church.” This church is home to over 20,000 members who worship together in 10 locations across Florida.

    April 15, 2014

  • Danielle Cater: Old dogs can learn new tricks

    You’re never too old to learn something new. I’m of the opinion that you can, indeed, teach an old dog new tricks.
    So as an old dog, I’ve been trying to pick up a new trick.

    April 7, 2014

  • Commentary: Bad vacation attitudes won't last forever

    In these photos, everyone else in the family is smiling as if this were their favorite vacation of all times, but I am huffing with my arms crossed and a literal frown on my face.

    March 26, 2014

Featured Ads
Twitter Updates
NDN Video
Facebook Is Officially A Mobile Company 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Prince George Turns 1 and is Already a Trendsetter
Royal Wedding Live