Federal plan will help with 2010 budget

Published 1:24 am Wednesday, April 29, 2009

By By Steve Flowers
The federal stimulus spending package is manna from heaven for the Alabama Legislature. Alabama, along with every other state, is facing the bleakest and most ominous financial shortfall since the Great Depression. States like California and New York, which do not have constitutional provisions prohibiting deficit spending like we do in Alabama, are facing Armageddon.
Alabama’s share of the federal spending plan will include $1 billion for education, $850 million for Medicaid, $525 million for roads and bridges, $60 million for transit capital grants, $20 million to fight homelessness and $7 million for immunizations. An estimated $3 billion in federal money will be poured into Alabama over the next year. Santa Claus has indeed come to the aid of the Alabama Legislature in the form of one Uncle Sam. The stimulus package should be named the Legislative Relief and Reelection Package. Legislators have been given a lifeboat in a reelection year that appeared bleak if not devastating.
It should be noted that this windfall is one-time money and the legislators and governor who arrive on “Goat Hill” in January of 2011 will face a monumental dilemma in state government. Another group that will face a dubious future are our children and grandchildren who will have to shoulder the burden of the massive debt incurred by the Obama Democratic spending bill. Ironically, it was very young voters who elected President Obama and they will be the ones saddled with the enormous debt. Let’s just hope that the intent of the package, which was to stimulate the economy, will work.
The State Senate Democrats are offering their own state stimulus package to go along with the Federal Plan. They are proposing borrowing from reserve savings accounts for Alabama road projects and for the housing market in Alabama.
It appears nothing short of a miracle will save the Jefferson County government from bankruptcy or oblivion. The pervasive corruption in their government, mostly stemming from fraud surrounding their sewer system, has left them in ruins for decades if not generations to come. The only silver lining in their shambles and shame is that the national economic collapse has now given them some company with other cities and counties throughout the country who will bankrupt right along with them. Jefferson County’s financial debacle and default on bonds has hurt the bond rating and availability of financing for all counties and municipalities throughout the state.
The Obama administration has still not replaced the Republican U.S. Attorneys in Alabama with their own appointments. The delay may be caused by the feud between Artur Davis and the State Democratic Party over patronage. There are two competing factions dueling over the appointments of U.S. Attorneys, Judges and U.S. Marshals. The power grab by Davis has created enemies within the Democratic ranks, which he will sorely need in the gubernatorial battle looming in next year’s Democratic primary. Because of his close ties to Obama, Davis may win the battle over patronage but lose the war politically.
Senior Senator Richard Shelby has made it clear that he plans to seek a fifth six-year term next year. Shelby, who is 74, says he is running “wide open.” He is finishing his annual tour of every Alabama county and looks fit and trim. His high profile opposition to the Obama/Democratic stimulus package was very popular in the state. Shelby’s popularity is at an all time high and if that is not enough he has a $14 million campaign war chest awaiting any potential challengers.
Senator Jeff Sessions, fresh from a resounding reelection to his third term in 2008, also staked out a strong position in opposition to the federal stimulus spending package. Sessions was poised to move up the seniority ladder on the Senate Budget Committee if Sen. Judd Gregg had taken the Secretary of Commerce post offered by Obama.
Jefferson County Congressman Spencer Bachus is now the senior member of our state’s congressional delegation. Bachus is the ranking Republican on the House Financial Services Committee. This post is very prestigious and important, especially in this financial environment.
Our two new Democratic Congressmen, Bobby Bright and Parker Griffith, have pretty much voted with the Republicans since their arrival in Washington. They both voted against the stimulus bill. The only member the Alabama congressional delegation to vote for the package was Artur Davis.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be contacted at www.steveflowers.us

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