Alabama GOP supermajority, governor should hold their noses and pass budget
That’s the word you’re looking for. If Republican supermajorities in the Alabama House and the Senate can’t pass a General Fund budget, put it on the Republican governor’s desk and expect him to sign it, then we have a serious problem.
Heck, even Congress has been able to pass a budget this year.
Let’s review a couple of the cold hard truths that the governor and many legislators seem unwilling to accept.
First, nobody likes the governor’s tax plan. He could call special sessions for the rest of his term, and that’s not going to change. The House can’t muster enough support to pass any tax hikes. Even if they could, the Senate doesn’t appear willing to play ball. That means legislators supporting taxes in the House will take the political hit and have nothing to show for it.
Second, the lottery is not a short-term budget fixer. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, has said as much. We can debate a lottery until the cows come home, but we still need to either cut spending or find some other revenues immediately.
Third, making a deal with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians might fill the immediate deficit, but plenty of legislators don’t want to create a gambling monopoly simply because of the state’s budget issues. More importantly, if the arrangement comes in the form of a compact, Gov. Robert Bentley would need to negotiate the deal with the U.S. Interior Department, and he’s already said he thinks gambling is the wrong solution.
Alabama’s legislators don’t want to support tax increases, and the path for some sort of gambling-related solution looks rocky.
That leaves one option: pass a budget that matches expected revenues.
Here’s the problem. With the exception of an agency like the Department of Corrections which has been turned inside and out to show serious funding, capacity and personnel issues, most legislators have no idea whether agency funding levels are appropriate or not.
They rely on the governor to make recommendations and agency heads to testify about their needs.
Well, the governor has decided he’s more interested in scaring Alabamians with targeted cuts than making an attempt at more reasonable suggestions.
And those agencies?
Virtually all of them utilize the time-honored government tradition of “use it or lose it.” If they come in significantly under budget, their allocation the next year will be cut. With a legislature looking to squeeze every dime, you can bet they’re going to spend what they’re given.
Simply put, legislators are having a tough time right now separating budget fact from fiction.
Maybe blanket percentage cuts are the best they can do at the moment. Give the House of Representatives credit for finally getting the ball rolling by passing a pared-down budget. With only a few days left in the session, we’re entering the time where the Senate needs to hold their noses and do the same.
If the political winds magically change, Gov. Bentley can call a special session to add the tax hikes and spending he so desperately wants. For now, he needs to come to terms with reality and sign the budget that the House and Senate hopefully put on his desk.