State government is acting more like Washington, D.C., every day. The state General Fund is spending close to $1 million more a day than the state General Fund can support. This means that for every five dollars state government is spending close to one of those dollars is being spent without continuous revenue behind it.
How is this possible? This is possible because of using one-time money, and the Legislature swiping money from the Alabama Trust Fund. State General Fund agencies have not seen a balanced budget without these type of budget shenanigans in a decade.
Alabama state government does not have a revenue problem. Alabama state government has a spending problem.
Gov. Robert Bentley spent millions on campaign ads promising, “More Jobs. Less Government. No New Taxes.” Just nine months after he was running for office, the governor has broken his two biggest promises. He has proposed now two tax increase packages, and he is pushing for bigger government/more spending.
Governor Bentley originally proposed spending more than $500 million more out of the pockets of state taxpayers in attempt to increase everyone’s taxes. The governor actually proposed new taxes that would have the typical family paying more than $1,800 a year for state services (excluding roads and schools). That is way too much for Alabamians to pay for prisons, Medicaid, and a smattering of other things. The governor needs to scale back his wish list and give us a balanced budget like he promised without increasng taxes or come up with non-tax increase solutions if he wants to spend more money.
Has something changed since nine months ago, when Governor Bentley and every lawmaker was elected by riding on a no new taxes/less government band wagon? No, nothing has changed. They all knew they had taken money out of the Alabama Trust Fund to spend on everyday expenses for state government and they knew they were going to have to scale back this year.
Promising No New Taxes and Less Government knowing full well the hole would be there from not having the Alabama Trust Fund money means either they were promising to scale back government after the election, or they flat knew that they were purposely deceiving the voters of Alabama in a calculated strategy of lying about their true intent to raises taxes after Election Day. Any lawmaker not falling in the categories of intent to shrink spending, or intent to lying to voters about breaking their no new tax campaign promise, must just be an imbecile.
Just a decade ago, Alabama families were paying less than $1,000 a year for state services and now the governor wants to push that amount to $1,800? What has changed? What are Alabamians getting now that they did not get 10 years ago? Show us the money.
State General Fund spending for Medicaid has tripled since 2004. And this is when emergency room treatment of Medicaid patients is on the rise and where only 20 percent of Medicaid emergency room visits are for emergency treatment, according to the Partnership for Medicaid. Instead of ballooning Medicaid spending, the governor and bureaucrats need to get emergency room spending in check and put some meaningful restrictions on the overuse of health care.
And prisons? Ten years ago state dollars going to prisons was right at $300 million. Now? The governor has requested almost $520 million for Corrections, or 70 percent more. This is when the cost for the no-bid crony prison medical contract has tripled in 12 years to a huge $80 million a year.
Inflation accounted for 22 percent increases in spending over the past ten years. What accounts for the other 50 percent to over 100 percent increase in numerous agencies?
Thank goodness the Legislature had the sense to kill Governor Bentley’s half-billion dollar tax package, but Governor Bentley, just did not get the hint. Even though the governor failed to get legislators to vote for his tax package, now he is coming with another tax increase plan. The governor now wants to take more income tax from working Alabamians, and he has even proposed a soft drink tax if the income tax hike does not pan out. He wants to increase the tax on cigarettes and businesses for the privilege of operating in Alabama.
Here is a prediction: many lawmakers who vote to abolish the FICA income tax deduction, vote to tax soft drinks, or vote to increase the tax on cigarettes or businesses is not coming back to Montgomery in three years because promises are promises. If politicians break a simple promise like not raising taxes, then what words can we believe coming from the mouth of that politician? None.
People are tired of state government throwing money down a rat hole. People are tired of paying more for less. People have to pay more as it is while they are making less take home pay. Raising taxes is not an option.
Here is an idea. Balance the budget with what you have, Governor Bentley and lawmakers. Come with solutions that do not call for raising one penny on the taxpayers if you just must spend more. We all pay enough as it is, and we elected all of you because you promised not to raise taxes, and not to increase an already bloated state government.
The state legislature goes back to Montgomery on Aug. 3 to consider Governor Bentley’s tax increases. All Alabama taxpayers should tell their legislators to keep their promise to not raise taxes.
John Rice is the president of Alabama Foundation for Limited Government.