State needs to reexamine budget process
Published 9:32 am Sunday, March 3, 2002
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Alabama lawmakers need to seriously cast out the notion of running the state "just like we've always done."
The Legislature should treat the state's budget as though they were managing a business.
In tight economic times, business leaders examine every expense, and state lawmakers should follow that lead.
Alabama leaders should question every penny of public funding spent. They should make sure they understand where that money is going and for what purpose. Only then can the state leaders begin to accurately assess whether those funds are being spent wisely.
Currently, lawmakers use an antiquated, but "safe," system to calculate the budget.
Each year they earmark certain amounts of funding for certain programs. And while this is the safe way to always keep programs funded, it isn't the most efficient way to manage funding.
As years pass, lawmakers continue to pass funding bills for projects and programs that may be out of date or no longer viable. But with the rubber-stamp system currently in use, who would know?
Knowing exactly how much each state program needs during the creation of the budget process is a good thing. Mindlessly approving the same basic amounts year after year reeks of bad fiscal management.
This system probably seemed like a good one when lawmakers first began using it. But even the best ideas and systems can become complacent and stale after a while. And this one certainly doesn't fit any more.
Lawmakers need to "earmark" a little time to take a serious look at their budgetary process.