We made the bed, now we have to sleep in it
Brian Giles Publisher
In the aftermath of the Amendment One vote Tuesday we now find ourselves feeling the shock wave of the budget cuts that are sure to come. Citizens of Alabama voted by a 2-1 margin to reject Gov. Bob Riley's plan to raise taxes by 1.2 billion. The state now faces a $675 million budget deficit for the 2003-2004 budget year that starts in just over two weeks. The state is looking at several areas to cut. These cuts are going to be as some have referred "deep and profound." Targets for cuts include public education, freeing thousands of convicted felons, and cuts to the state Medicaid agencies.
How will our school system continue to operate? There will be no money for supplies, textbooks, computers and software, teacher training and 6,000 state education employees could lose their jobs next year.. State officials are expecting $100 million cut in school money for this school year and an additional $200 million in the 2004-05 year. Some school systems may have to look at a four-day school week instead of a five. Our state test scores are already below national averages. They will continue the slide What will happen to extra curricular activities such as football, baseball and marching bands? With budgets tight, sports will likely be the first to get cut.
The state is looking at hiring an additional parole board of three members to speed up the release of state inmates from correctional facilities. Riley has proposed releasing 5,000-6,000 inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes such as burglary, drug possession and dealing. There will be cuts in law enforcement. There will be a hiring freeze put on state troopers, meaning no new troopers will be hired and existing troopers will not be replaced when they retire.
The poor in our nursing homes are going to feel the pinch. The state is looking to cut the number of low-income people in nursing home beds from 18,000 to 15,000 paid for by the state Medicaid agency. Medicaid said no one would be removed from a nursing home, but it will likely be harder to qualify for a bed in the future.
I have mentioned just a few of the areas that will see cuts. The list goes on and includes things such as child health insurance programs, restaurant inspectors, State Health Department, District Attorneys office, and so on.
I fear the people of Alabama may have made a mistake.
It is not the big landowners and corporations that will feel the sting of the budget cuts. It is the everyday people of the state who depend on our public school systems, our nursing homes, and our law enforcement to keep us safe. We will look back on the Riley tax plan a few years from now and say it would have been a lot cheaper to pay the tax increase instead of buying all these textbooks, paying for my kid to play football or participate in the band.
It may not be in the form of a tax, but in the end we are all going to pay in one way or another..
Brian Giles is publisher of the Atmore Advance and may be reached at 368-2123 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org