Were scare tactics just a big farce?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 24, 2003

So maybe things weren’t quite as bad as we were told. Maybe the state of Alabama and the public officials in Montgomery have realized they still have enough money to fund their own personal projects while figuring out a way to run state government.

When Gov. Bob Riley and members of the Alabama Legislature scurried through the state a few weeks ago and told us that $675 million would be cut, they warned that any agency not directly related to state government would lose its funding.

On Monday evening, the Alabama Senate proved things weren’t as bad as once expected.

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According to major media outlets across the state, the Alabama Senate approved an education budget worth $4.2 billion. What’s ironic &045; if not humorous &045; is that last year’s education budget (known as the Education Trust Fund) was worth only $4.1 billion. In other words, the state has projected a shortfall of $675 million, but the education budget has increased by $100 million.

Something doesn’t seem right. And based on the actions by the Alabama Senate, voters who rejected a $1.2 billion tax hike should now feel comfortable that they may have done the right thing.

Private institutions like the McWane Center and day care facilities headed by several state politicians won’t get as much money as they did last year, but they have not been cut out of the budget, as many state leaders warned us just weeks ago.

In an article by The Birmingham News, State Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, said cutting out all appropriations to every private group wasn’t politically possible.

Sanders, who represents parts of Marengo County, received a great deal of publicity last year when The Birmingham News reported that many members of Sanders’ family receive money from these private projects.

But this week, Sanders said giving money to some non-state agencies would only amount to $12 million, and that the services were necessary in some parts of the state.

Because the House of Representatives has not passed the Senate version of the education budget, we cannot yet tell if any of Sanders’ family members will receive part of the $12 million pie. In fact, it may turn out that Sanders and some of his entities have been cut out completely.

In the meantime, citizens in Alabama can look at our legislators’ actions and realize that things may not have been as bad as they seemed.

If we can afford to spend $12 million on private projects, but can’t afford to spend $12 million on new text books, then something is terribly wrong with the priorities of state officials. And in the end, this may be the very reason Alabamians overwhelmingly tossed aside a plan to send $1.2 billion more to Montgomery.