Democrats demand accountability

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Last September, the people of Alabama spoke and rebuffed Governor Riley’s Tax Plan that would provide the state with $1.2 Billion in additional revenue.

The voice of the people was clear, Alabamians want to feel confident their state government is accountable and answers to the people it serves.

During last year’s budget special session, Governor Riley told legislators that he would introduce “a comprehensive package of reforms and accountability measures” as his “top priority” during the 2004 regular session.

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With the beginning of the session a little more than a week away, rather than speculate what the Governor plans to propose, Democratic members of the legislature are demanding concrete action and have brought forth a package of bills that will bring accountability to all aspects of state government.

The Democratic package features legislation to ensure that state government acts as a good steward of public funds; requiring a no-bid contract report card be submitted to the Secretary of State when contracts are not bid by state agencies.

To ensure more open and honest government spending, another proposal will strengthen the power of the Contract Review Committee, by increasing the time to review a contract from 45 days to 120 days and allow for the rescinding of contracts.

In an effort to make public budgeting more transparent, a revision to the Executive Budget Act will require appropriated funds be spent as directed, thereby prohibiting inter-agency transfers.

In addition, pass through appropriations will be banned.

Further, the power of the ADECA Oversight Commission will be expanded to include reviewing all grants.

Everyone must be held accountable.

No longer must corporate special interest and other unaccountable and often untouchable groups be able to hide their contributions and the political influence it buys.

Legislation aimed at requiring public disclosure of special interest contributions to issue advertising in campaigns, for and against referendums and other ballot initiatives, is also included.

In addition to a proposal that would require that the compensation received by the State Superintendent of Education not to exceed the national average, the Democratic accountability initiative will also include, a measure consolidating workforce development strategies, plans budgets and implementation into post secondary education.

The package also contains the key educational accountability measures passed last year by the legislature as part of the Amendment One package.

Alabamians spoke last September at the ballot box.

Although the financial business of the state is complex and involved, there is no reason for it to be concealed from public scrutiny.

These initiatives are stepping stones toward the future; however, making state government and public accounting more open does not resolve the looming budget crisis in our state.