Out of control spending is a major problem in our state, municipal, and county governments. We are in need of major budget reform. Our dire situation is fueled by an artificially slow economy and tax revenue shortfall..
Our leaders seem to be addicted to the urge to spend every penny they get their hands on. The notion of having a rainy day for fund for the tighter times is oil to their water. They empty the coffers and leave needed services out in the cold.
Reform Alabama is an organization that wants to turn the tide on our rapid descent into financial disaster. They support legislation iniiatives to start correcting course at the state level. Some of the ideas they support are:
- “Basing state revenue budgeting estimates on a 15 year rolling average rather than unsubstantiated projections, which, in the past have been devised for political convenience and/or based on unsustainable revenue estimates.”
- “Allow state agency directors to carry money over, from one fiscal year to the next, when their budgets have not been fully expended. Current policy, which encourages agencies to spend every penny or risk a lower appropiation in the next budget year, is a crystal clear disincentive to efficient financial management and thoughtful spending of our tax dollars.”
- “Make General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgeting more transparent to Alabama taxpayers by setting out and enforcing a defined process that provides, at a minimum, easy public access to the Governors budget proposals and a defined time period for public reviews of any proposed substitutes and/or amendments to it. Current procedures keep taxpayers “out of the loop” by allowing lawmakers to make spontaneous budget overhauls without any advance notification to the public or to the legislators who may oppose their action.”
- “Effectively enforce the state’s Budget Isolation Amendment requiring the Legislature to enact state budgets before passing any other legislation…..”
- Take fair and reasonable steps to ensure long term budget solvency and save public sector jobs by curtailing the growth in the costs of state funded public employee benefits.”
Alabama state legislators bring in around $53,438 annually compared to the median household income of $40,547. They voted themselves a 61% raise in 2007. It only sounds fair for Alabamians to support the proposed amendment to Senator Bryan Taylor. Sen Taylor seeks to cut their pay to reflect the median household income. With Alabama in the grip of a financial crisis everyone needs to chip in. Senators Tom Whatley and Gerald Dial support this effort and should be commended.
Alabama’s municipalities are not free of wonton spending and poor decision making. The City of Valley (AL) has spent itself into a hole. Once a thriving textile community; it had it’s throat virtually cut by the outsourcing of textiles to Communist China.
Free trade fiascos and intrusive government regulations sold out the people of the Valley and surrounding communities. The unnecessary death of the textile industry destroyed the tax base and the middle class health of East Alabama. City leaders continued to spend; as if, the Valley were still bustling. The spending habit is hard to break.
The Valley Times News for October 28, 2011 covered former Chambers County Superintendent of Education Leonard Riley’s speech at the Kiwanis Club of Valley. Mr. Riley spoke on Valley’s massive debt load. He rightfully questioned the city leaders taking out a 30 year bond on recent road improvements. We were already in a hole and digging deeper with a deficit since 2001.
When the KIA Motors plant was first mentioned for Troup County, Georgia; Valley’s Mayor and City Council went on a spending spree. They purchased the West Point Stevens Langdale (AL) textile mill for $300,000 and the Riverdale mill for $186,000. The upkeep on these properties runs the cash strapped city $60,000-$100,000 a year.
Mr. Riley pointed out that $283,000 in grant money was blown on these properties in 2008. $92,000 was transferred to the Valley Community Development Corporation in 2008. Money well wasted with the only development being a Zaxby’s restaurant and empty lots.
The Valley had a 9% sales tax and recently voted to raise it to 10%. Raising taxes instead of cutting useless fat isn’t the answer. another bad idea was proposed to privatize the EMT service. The mostly rural Valley needs paramedics familiar with the area and with a proven response time.
With a high unemployment rate and a virtually non-existent manufacturing base; real leadership is needed. An astounding $5.9 million was spent on the road improvement, turning lanes, and street lights going nowhere but empty lots. They counted their eggs before they were laid- or the retail deals were signed.
Valley leaders burned through a line of credit in 2008. Were operating on a deficit balance of $800,000 in 2007. Around 17%-18% of the cities total budget is going to pay on debt. The nation, the State of Alabama, and Alabama’s cities and counties are operating in the red. Alabama is in a financial crisis. We are in dire need of leaders, who can lead and balance a checkbook. Get our financial house in order.