I have asked the Legislative Reference Service office to draft legislation called “Priority Budgeting” and I expect to have it ready to introduce on the first day of the second special session (Sept. 8).
If new taxes, revenue transfers, or even a lottery passes for the General Fund, I believe the people of Alabama deserve to know how it will be spent. The best way to do that is to spell it out up front in the law so there are no questions about it. I certainly don’t want new revenue going to Montgomery with a “just trust us” policy.
Based on what I’ve been hearing from the people in my district, the people of Alabama want any new revenue to be used as follows:
(1) funding for Children’s Hospitals of Alabama to match federal Medicaid dollars, so we can be assured if children are injured or ill, the best medical care is available for them.
(2) funding for rural hospitals to match federal Medicaid dollars, so that regardless of where you live in Alabama, basic health care will be available close by.
(3) funding to Medicaid for matching federal Medicaid dollars for nursing home patients and other long-term care at current levels so no one is in danger of being removed from a nursing home or denied other current long-term care options.
(4) implementation and maintenance of prison reform to prevent federal takeover of prisons and/or the release of dangerous prisoners.
(5) Alabama Department of Public Health for restaurant/food inspections.
(6) Veterans Affairs to assure the men and women who served our country that the door will be open when they need it at a nearby Veterans Affairs office.
(7) funding to match federal dollars to purchase meals for homebound senior citizens.
(8) dependable funding for Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences and courts to assure swift justice for those who harm innocent people.
(9) funding to assure poultry diagnostic laboratories are fully operational to contain diseases like bird flu.
(10) legislative language to assure state parks in Alabama retain the revenue they generate and to assure sustainable funding will be available for them to remain open.
If we don‘t set priorities to fund these necessary services – if we just pump more money into the General Fund without setting priorities – I guarantee you in a year or two, we’ll have another crisis and the threat of cutting these essential services will be used again to raise taxes or borrow money, and we won’t know where the money we raised this year was spent. If we put it in the law, people know where the money goes.
I am not a member of the General Fund Committee, but I am a member of the Legislature, and I have a responsibility to try to find solutions. That is what I am trying to do with this legislation. Solving the General Fund problem is a daunting task, but I believe if we set priorities in line with the thinking of the people of Alabama, we can solve the problem.