State must have new funding
Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 24, 2004
In high school I played second base on the baseball team.
I was placed there because I could not throw the ball hard enough to get a runner out from third base or shortstop.
Neither could I hit long home runs like many of my teammates, but I could manage enough singles to stay in the lineup.
When I complained to my Mother about not having all the abilities of my classmates, she would always reply "just do the best you can with what you've got and don't worry about it."
This expression came to mind several times last week when we were preparing and voting on the state budgets.
We have many demands for money to fund state agencies and services but we have very little revenue with which to work.
When all was said and done, and after much study and debate, we did the best we could with what we had.
Although Mother would probably say "don't worry about it now", I do worry about it because many essential state services are severely underfunded.
I get a lot of mail from constituents who say "Wendell, don't vote for any new taxes."
Some few people even threaten to not vote for me if I supported a new tax.
I find this odd since I have built a public record over a twenty-year period of being probably the most fiscal conservative senator in the Senate.
I guess there is just a lot of emotion tied to the tax issue.
Fortunately no new taxes are needed to fund a good education budget.
Last week we were able to use available revenue and make minimal cuts in basic education programs.
The Senate then adopted this education budget and sent it to the House of Representatives.
Unfortunately the general fund budget will not be as easy to fund.
The simple truth is that just to provide minimal services for public safety, medicaid, prisons, conservation, mental health, and highways there has to be an influx of at least $320 million in new money.
To those who say no new taxes', I ask where are those funds to come from.
In the past, I have consistently voted against tax increases, and I have voted for almost every accountability measure submitted by Governor Bob Riley.
In fact, I have sponsored many of the bills authored by Governor Riley to reform state government.
The Legislature in general has been responsive to some of these forms, but has rejected others.
In time, I am confident the Legislature will enact a number of significant accountability measures, but in the meantime, we have to deal with these state budgets.
Under our Alabama Constitution, we must balance our budgets, therefore, we have to work within the parameters of the monies available to fund state services.
Many Alabama citizens do not believe we have a fiscal crisis in our state.
As someone who has an opportunity to observe the state financial picture on a week-to-week basis, I can tell you that this is an inaccurate assessment.
If the general fund budget has to be adopted without any new revenue, then I predict that many essential state services will be severely cut or eliminated altogether.
In the meantime, if we get no additional revenue, then we will just do the best we can with what we've got, but I will worry about it.
Senator Wendell Mitchell can
be reached at 334-242-7883, or by writing
to P.O. Box 225, Luverne, AL 36049.