A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Churchill
Dear Republican Legislators,
Although many of you may in the ongoing special session prefer to discuss the current problems of the general fund in terms of pain that will be caused if important services of general government are not funded with new revenue and increased taxes, that would be a mistaking of the problem.
You are in fact reaping a crop of troubles caused by a dysfunctional budget system crafted over 136 years of Democrat rule to please the late Paul Hubbert, his AEA, and their fellow travelers.
The current budget process merely allocates revenue to the broad functions of education and general government based on obsolete rules long locked in political concrete. As we can see today, this approach means that we spend lots of money for a number of low priority, low payoff programs in education while urgent high priority needs in general government are grossly underfunded. For example, in the coming fiscal year we will spend $48 million on a new and growing pre-kindergarten program and we will give $10 million to Tuskegee University, a private school, while the urgent needs of mental health programs and prison reform need more money.
I think it makes no sense to pass a patched up budget until you reform your dysfunctional budget process. Until that is done there is no way to establish spending priorities or to determine the adequacy of current revenue. We need a multiyear, unified budget without earmarks, and we need to reform the state retirement system. Sadly, in five regular sessions our GOP led legislature has failed to get it done.
If there is not time to fix the budget process now in the fifth year of a GOP controlled legislature, we can pay for the unfunded priorities of the general fund by moving money from the most obviously low priority programs in the education budget and by general government reforms such as getting Alabama out of the retail liquor business.
If you value your personal and collective credibility you will not raise taxes now, you will not expand gambling now, and you will not create a state lottery now with only a promise to fix the budget process later.
And if you value your credibility you will keep your hands off the revenue set asides required by the education rolling reserve act and reject using it to pump up education spending, and you will reject the proposal to borrow $50 million to finish the deluxe lodge at Gulf State Park.
Neither a Republican majority nor political concrete will last forever, but I hope all of us would prefer the latter be the first to go.