Gov. Robert Bentley is welcoming lawmakers back to town today to raise taxes and pass the state General Fund Budget. We have been hearing how much state government is in need of much, much, much more money from the taxpayers. This just is not the case. In looking at the governor’s original proposed budget, there are $100 million in cuts that could come right off of the top without getting into the pockets of taxpayers. The only problem with these solutions is that they would interfere with Gov. Robert Bentley’s play pretties and pet projects. We say the governor is one man and one man’s whims should not affect 1.5 million Alabama taxpaying households.
The Governor’s original proposed budget included $11 million for trooper vehicle purchases which is enough to buy every trooper on the road a new patrol car. Does every trooper need a new patrol car next year? Heavens, no. And does every one of the 1,500 law enforcement state employees, including secretaries, need $2,500 worth of new equipment in addition to all of those cars? The answer is no.
In Medicaid, so much more money is supposedly needed just to keep the same services. If this is the case, Doctor Bentley, why was spending on Medicaid physicians proposed by you to increase 25%, or by $135 million? Not ballooning this one expenditure area would dramatically lower what you supposedly need. Worse, Governor Bentley proposed Medicaid administrative costs (otherwise known as feeding the bureaucracy) to increase by $47 million, or a whopping 17% increase. What happened to the governor’s promise of smaller government?
What about this prison funding crisis? Here, the governor was proposing $29 million more for professional services contracts, or an increase of 24%. The governor proposed that Alabama next year should spend about the same on no-bid prison contracts as it does on the pay for all of the prison guards seeing after the inmates. This is wrong, and this is outrageous.
If state government is in such dire straights, then why did Governor Bentley propose a transfer of another $1 million for the Wynfield Mansion next year after spending $500,000 over the last two years? So, Governor, you and Mrs. Bentley need two state mansions in the same capital city? This is ridiculous. We know the Alabama Governor’s Mansion is not as opulent as the Wynton Blount Mansion, but if Alabama’s Governor’s Mansion was good enough for James “Big Jim” Folsom and George Wallace, then it is good enough for you.
Why did the governor just start paying for a new state jet for another nearly $1 million a year? Why did the governor propose that state office building costs double next year to $23 million plus more money to support another $20 million or so for buildings in the capital complex? And, of this, why should State Capitol maintenance and repair cost nearly two-thirds more next year for a whopping $11 million more? Maybe that money is for monument removal, who knows. Another $11 million added for state phones. When does it end?
These items here mentioned account for $100 million of the supposed crisis. Instead of aggrandizement in the state capital complex along with planes, trains, and automobiles, Governor Bentley needs to forego the trappings of power and operate state government on a shoestring budget.
Tell your lawmakers no new taxes. Tell your lawmakers to make do with the taxes that they have and do without the excesses that the governor wants.
John Rice is president of Alabama Foundation for Limited Government.