- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

July 29

The Dothan (Alabama) Eagle on state’s budget strain:

It’s difficult to argue with an initiative that would aim to bring new jobs into Alabama, particularly considering that the state’s 6.9 percent unemployment figure is 13 percent higher than the national average.

However, expect a howling fight over how Gov. Robert Bentley hopes to fund his plan to pay for economic incentives for new businesses: Last Wednesday, Bentley said he planned to call a special legislative session to divert money from the Education Fund to provide those incentives.

He later backtracked on the statement, saying he had no intention of “hurting the education budget.”

It would seem to make no sense. With public education in Alabama ranked at or near the bottom in virtually every national academic measurement, the last thing we should do is take money from education for any purpose. Yet that was Bentley’s plan. What’s worse is that the governor has little other choice.

The problem lies in the way the state manages its revenue. For almost 90 years, Alabama has had bifurcated budgets - The Special Education Trust Fund for education, and the General Fund for everything else. Revenue from the most steady and prolific sources, such as income, sales, utility and use taxes, — are dedicated to the SETF. The General Fund is fed by a mishmash of other sources, such as taxes on insurance premiums, oil and gas lease taxes and various others. The result is the Education Fund is usually far healthier than the General Fund.

Alabama needs more jobs. And Alabama needs an adequately funded public education system.

They can start by weighing the pros and cons of consolidating our two budgets and joining 47 other states that appear to operate well with only one.




July 25

Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News on grandstanding:

It appears that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is having a Fob James moment.

James, who played fullback at Auburn University in the days before helmets offered football players much protection, famously promised to call out the Alabama National Guard to prevent efforts to remove Judge Roy Moore’s Ten Commandments display. Fortunately, the state militia never got around to fixing bayonets.

Perry expressed exasperation with the Obama administration’s efforts, or lack thereof, to do anything about the flood of immigrant children coming in from Central America. He sees it as a huge problem for Texas, and has vowed to mobilize 1,000 Texas National Guard troops and send them to the border region.

Guard officials say guardsmen won’t be using military force against immigrants or detaining anyone. They’ll just be giving them directions to the nearest border patrol office where they can surrender.

Perry’s frustration is somewhat understandable. The Obama administration has made an art form out of stumbling into “told-you-so” situations. In an act of political grandstanding, Barack Obama whipped out his pen and his phone during the 2012 presidential election and halted any federal efforts to deport illegal immigrant youths brought here by their parents.

Although it seemed compassionate at the time, it was more about election-year politics, and it was done without regard for the consequences.

Those consequences are now manifested in a flood of illegal immigrant children whose parents believe they won’t be sent home because of the president’s actions. The president and his supporters claim otherwise, but the flood of immigrant children didn’t begin until Obama made his unilateral “Dream Act” pronouncement.

Perry’s frustration bona fides notwithstanding, troops aren’t the answer. And threatening to send them to the border during a highly publicized crisis may really be an act of political grandstanding that matches Obama’s 2012 exercise of penmanship.

We suggest Perry dismount, sheath his saber and tell the state’s weekend warriors to stand down.




July 29

Anniston (Alabama) Star on money:

Last December, Gov. Robert Bentley announced that his administration had cut more than $1 billion in state spending since taking office in January 2011.

According to a press release from the governor’s office, Bentley said, “Alabamians elected us to make state government more efficient and live within our means without raising taxes or cutting essential services.”

It continued, “State government was broke when Republicans entered office in 2011, but together with Legislative leaders, we took a serious look at how we could find savings in state government.”

It’s everything we’ve come to expect from Gov. Bentley, who has proven himself to be unnecessarily partisan, highly ideological and often lacking in precision when making such sweeping statements.

At the same time he cut $1 billion, Bentley relied on deficit financing to the tune of $437 million to keep the state afloat. Facing deep budgetary shortfalls in 2012, the governor and the Legislature asked voters to allow them to raid a state trust fund. State leaders promoted wild tales of mass prisoner-releases without the money, and so voters approved the proposal.

Talk about smoke and mirrors from Montgomery. Cut with one hand and borrow with the other.

The trust fund raid was a quiet admission to a dirty little secret of Alabama politics: We don’t have enough money to operate efficiently.

The state has a revenue problem. It doesn’t raise enough to pay for our most basic functions, and its collection methods take a heavy toll on those least able to pay. It’s upside-down.

Alabama’s governor should be willing to level with the state’s residents. Most Alabama politicians currently describe the state as an over-regulated and tax-heavy place. They apply a national template to a local situation. Their argument might work in tax-heavy California or New York. It’s less persuasive in Alabama, where state taxes are among the lowest in the nation.

This portrayal is dishonest.

It’s time for an honest conversation from our governor. Here’s a good way to start: Alabama needs to rework how it collects revenue. For some that will mean a reduction as the regressive act of taxing groceries will end.





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