Thursday, September 13, 2012

Our Stand: The only option

  Alabama voters are being presented with a choice to be voted upon September 18, but an honest assessment of the amendment which would transfer nearly half a billion dollars from a state trust fund to shore up the state’s operating budget reveals there is only one viable option. It’s a do-or-die scenario.

  Lawmakers want to borrow $437 million from the Alabama Trust Fund – a savings account resting on royalties from the state’s oil and gas reserves – to temporarily bandage a gaping wound in the General Fund, the state’s main operating budget. The Alabama Legislature failed to solve the issue – one that stems all the way back to Bob Riley’s tenure as governor – so voters will be forced to approve the measure or trust that the legislature can go back into session and pass a viable alternative before the clock runs out October 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

  Though many voters are justifiably concerned about shifting these dollars around, they should be more worried about how the legislature would respond if we fail to approve the measure. The problem has lingered for years, and during the last regular session, our lawmakers failed to act again. Why trust them now, especially when they’ll only have 12 days to remedy the problem should the referendum fail?

  Alabama lawmakers failing to act just months before the clock counts down to zero is unforgivable, and passing the buck to voters is the very definition of cowardice and recklessness. But our frustration over their inaction does not warrant playing a dangerous game of chicken by voting down this amendment, crossing our fingers and hoping the very lawmakers who aided and abetted this problem will wake up before October 1 and solve the problem.

  And any lawmaker who takes to his soapbox to whine about his colleagues’ lack of fiscal self-discipline and to oppose this measure may have a point – but it won’t be his mother being tossed off life-saving medical services should we vote down this temporary fix. As for leaders, especially lawmakers, who are urging us to defeat this measure, please ask those individuals to present you with their proposed bill that they claim would remedy the problem. We have yet to see one, but you might have better luck!

  Voting no in a misguided and equally reckless move to “teach them a lesson” won’t teach our lawmakers anything, and the suffering will fall directly on those most in need. Resulting budget cuts could affect those relying on state-subsidized hospital care and could even result in the early release of state prisoners.

  And Alabama voters typically only have one selfish concern when it comes to such referendums: Will it raise my taxes? This proposed action won’t raise anyone’s taxes, nor will it create any new taxes. It won’t cost us anything as the measure would simply take monies that are already in state coffers and use those to provide basic, essential, no-frills state services.

  Failing to approve the measure could also embolden lawmakers who have already proved they are hostile to any state spending that doesn’t include corporate welfare to resume their attack on Alabama’s most vulnerable citizens. We should not give them the opportunity to do so.

  And we should all be concerned over a long-term fix to our budget and revenue woes, but our immediate concern should be to avoid an immediate budgetary collapse, not sticking it to our feet-dragging representatives or playing a neglectful game of chicken with every state function from hospital care to protecting us from violent criminals.

  The Capital City Free Press strongly urges Alabama voters to take back their voice in resolving this problem by passing this referendum September 18. It’s too late for our legislature to provide an adequate, responsible and equitable alternative, and as shown by their repeated failures regarding this problem, we cannot trust them to do so anyway. Do the responsible thing – vote “yes” September 18.


  The September 18, 2012 special election contains one item, a proposed amendment. The following is the full text of the ballot measure: (PDF)

  For more information visit the Alabama Secretary of State’s website:
or call 1-800-274-8683.

Copyright © Capital City Free Press

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