Gov., legislators should work together

Published 4:30 am Wednesday, December 19, 2001

There's a problem that Alabama Gov. Don Siegleman sees and he has proposed a solution to it.
In order to avoid additional proration or reductions of promised funds to school districts, Siegelman is suggestion that $160 million in taxes be passed along to businesses around the state.
I'll spare you the struggling economy diatribe; no one is more familiar with the ebbs and flow of economic fortune that those of us who live in and around Atmore. And I'll say something kind for a change about our Governor. At least he is working to solve the tremendous educational funding problem despite the fact that he is losing allies with each passing day.
Naysayers myself included don't necessarily want to see school budgets trimmed and children lose opportunities for a good education. What I want is a real solution to the very real problem.
Because when new tax law generates that kind of cash for Alabama, we may as well call it what it is a new tax on businesses that are already struggling. While I understand that somebody, somewhere, is likely to have to pay more, I'd be happy to see it be some of the elected officials who are knocking down six figures. Consider our state's well-paid judges who hide behind their robes and the Ten Commandments. They knock down almost as much as the judges in California and mind you I am speaking of our state Supreme Court justices primarily, plus an appeals court judge here and there.
But even that's not a permanent solution to an ongoing educational problem.
In short, here's how it shakes out:
Problem We don't have enough money coming into our educational budget to meet the expense demands.
Reason Because state sales tax revenues are down from the projections.
How does it work? – The state "projects" how much it will bring in through sales tax and doles out a portion to schools.
Why are we $160 million short? It's either a bad projection or a down economy or both.
Solution Quit depending on sales taxes to fund schools. The revenue fluctuates between polar extremes. We need a more stable base from which to get our revenue for such an important thing as schools.
It makes sense to me.
What I simply cannot understand is why our elected officials can't see it.
We need to find another way to fund education and get away from this ongoing struggle each year to meet our budgetary needs. Property taxes are more stable and make more sense as solution sources. They also bring in a tremendous amount of money and could absorb funding needs if the state would be responsible and slash some salaries and eliminate some of the bureaucracies that exist.
That said, I find that I side with a good number of Alabama legislators who want to send Siegelman's plan packing. But I know what alternative to the problem I would propose.
They don't seem to.
Instead legislators blame Siegelman for hot-shotting in front of the cameras while he goes to their districts and urges their constituents to cram the proposal down their representative's throat.
They cite his low approval rating and his pending election as reasons for the show, while he blames them for being mule-headed and belligerent.
Truth is that they're all shackled together by the ankles and they're logrolling through rough waters. When one goes, so go the rest of them.
But it's easier to blame one another for the problems that exist than it is to propose a valid, reasonable solution.
I think it would behoove everyone involved if they would quit bickering and work together.
And though I disagree with Gov. Siegelman's plan, it is, at least, a plan. It addresses the symptoms and creates additional problems for the state, but it does address one key problem education.
Now it's time for the naysayers to step up to the plate with their plan. Siegelman may not hit the bullseye with what he's proposing, but he's got a good shot at the target. The other guys aren't even on the same archery field and it's high time they got there.
I'd encourage our legislators to come up with a solid alternative plan and to quit blasting the only concrete proposal that has been put on the table.
Brian Blackley is publisher of The Atmore Advance.

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