Embrace the struggle

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 12, 2006

January 10th is the first day of the 2006 Regular Legislative Session.

I am not looking forward to this session because it will produce additional struggles.

It’s coming anyway so I must face it.

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However, I’m bracing myself so I can embrace the coming struggle.

I’m bracing myself for the inevitable politics of an election year manifested in the legislative process.

We can’t take politics of politics.

Therefore, looming elections always intensify every area of politics, including the legislative process.

If I embrace the struggle, I will be alright.

If we embrace the struggle, Alabama will be a better place.

I’m bracing myself for election year politics in the budget process.

As chair of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee, I’m particularly embracing the struggle of the Education Budget.

There is always a challenge.

Since I am involved in this struggle all the time, I’ll just have to embrace even more.

This year, nearly a billion dollars in additional monies are projected for the Education Fund.

That increases the current $5.4 billion-dollar Education Budget to $6.4 billion, nearly a 20 percent increase.

Last year we had more new money for the Education Budget than ever before.

Instead of being one of our easiest years, it was the most difficult.

We can expect more difficulty this year.

I will just have to embrace the struggle.

We are already in a “word war.”

Some are calling this increase “surplus funds.”

I am fighting against this term.

The funds cannot be “surplus” when we have so many needs.

To me, they are just “unanticipated funds.”

Proposals are flying every-which-a-way to dispense every dime of this projected increase.

We must not spend all this money.

Already we have had a proposal for a tax rebate of hundreds of millions of dollars.

In a state where we are near the very bottom in funding the education of our children, such a proposal challenges common sense.

It was just three years ago that we could not fund schoolbooks for our children.

I expect other tax cut proposals to surface.

That’s the power of politics in an election year.

Another “flying idea” is to have a $500 million building program (capital improvement program).

The Governor is proposing it, but I first heard it from a news reporter.

She wanted to know what I thought since I am chair of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee.

I had not thought about it because I did not know about it.

Neither did Representative Richard Lindsey, Chair of the House committee handling the Education Budget.

We are sure to have a struggle around this proposal.

Usually, we do capital improvement programs through bond issues.

The Governor floated such a proposal earlier this year.

It did not fly.

There are needs but I think we should consider a bond issue next year when it is more likely to be driven by educational needs rather than by reelection politics.

The Governor seems determined to have a big capital spending initiative through the front door via a bond issue or the back door through a large “capital improvement program.”

That’s the power of election year politics.

Beyond the budgets, I’m bracing myself for the emotionally-charged bills that will be introduced just to force legislators to vote for or against so their votes can be used in the looming elections.

Some “bad bills” will pass the Alabama Legislature this year that would never pass in a non-election year.

Other “good bills” that ought to pass will not pass simply because it’s an election year.

I’m bracing myself to deal with maneuvers to make sure we don’t vote on certain bills.

There are numerous ways to avoid voting on bills.

In the past, I have been asked by committee members to make sure that certain bills in the Finance and Taxation Education Committee did not get on the agenda.

Some felt that they would lose if they voted for the bills and lose if they voted against them.

For them, it was a no win situation.

In an election year, this happens much more often.

Then there are the issues involving the reorganization of the Alabama Senate and House.

They will certainly manifest themselves in novel and unexpected ways.

I must even embrace the unknown as we negotiate this legislative session.

While there is so much to struggle against, I must also embrace the opportunities lurking below the political surface.

As the old folk say, “In every dark cloud, there is a silver lining.”

I must not focus only on the dark cloud.

I must embrace the silver lining in each dark cloud.

There is so much struggle but I must embrace it.