A member of the Alabama Legislature recently asked why I am voting no against the “Medicaid Amendment” which is coming up for a vote on September 18. After sharing my views with him, I decided to also share with you, due to the gravity of situation, the inclinations of my heart on the matter.
For those that may not know, this year the Alabama Legislature passed a state budget with a $145 million dollar hole in it. Rather than passing a balanced budget as required by State law, they acted in violation of the law and the Alabama Constitution. Amazingly, Governor Bentley signed it. Now they claim that if we do not approve this constitutional amendment on September 18, that hospitals and prisons are going to shut down and millions of children will be without access to healthcare. These claims remind me of Chicken Little saying that “the sky is falling!”
If this fear-mongering does become reality, we have much deeper problems than budgetary issues. The first Republican majority in 140 years, and now the whole State is going down if we don't approve the amendment? I am no Democrat, but at least their majorities could pass a balanced budget every year. It's not hard. Simple addition and subtraction, you subtract your expenses from your revenues and (by law) it must equal zero. Otherwise, it must be adjusted until it equals zero or has a surplus. We expect fiscal leadership from the Republicans, only to have them lead us to the edge of a fiscal cliff. 2014 is not too far away, you know.
If we demand fiscal responsibility and accountability by voting no on September 18, the Governor will have to call a special session of the Legislature for the purpose of passing a constitutional budget. They will have 12 days to act before the new fiscal year starts on October 1. The only way that anything goes unfunded is if the Legislature refuses to act, which I hardly think will be the case. The Republicans are aware of their youth as majority party in Alabama and will not let the State fall apart on their watch. Like I said, 2014 is not so far away.
Even worse, the September 18 amendment is a self-fulfilling prophecy. By taking $435 million dollars from the Alabama Trust Fund, they will accordingly reduce all future General Fund budget revenues which depend on interest earned from the trust fund! Where are they going to get the missing revenue then? The Education Trust Fund? Of course, they have “promised” to pay it back (except there is no legal requirement for them to do so). One plan? Take it out of the Education Trust Fund over ten years. Doh!
This constitutional amendment just doesn't pass muster as sound fiscal policy. It is destined to be paid for by the elimination of educational opportunities for our children, or through higher taxes on the rest of us in the future. I do not think Alabama voters put the Republicans in the majority for them to continue to kick the can down the road. We expect leadership and results. That's why a number of legislators, from both parties, have come out publicly against the amendment.
You would think that in lean times such as these, our leaders would look to cut unnecessary services and pork barrel spending. After reviewing a state contract list for FY 2013, I found that we the people are to pay $1.3 million dollars to Weight Watchers for state employees. While I am not opposed to our state employees living healthy lives, the only thing we can afford to put on Weight Watchers is our General Fund budget!
We need to send a message to our legislators on September 18, that they are not above the law, that we demand fiscal responsibility, and that we are not going to accept the same tired kick the can down the road policies! Demand leadership and accountability! Vote NO on September 18!