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Bill Britt: Political leaders must work together, but “No,” does not add to the solution

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Benjamin Disraeli, one of Britain’s greatest prime ministers once said, “Desperation is sometimes as powerful an inspirer as genius.”
Now is a time for the Governor and Legislature of Alabama to be powerfully inspired. Faced with budget shortfalls, unemployment rates—while improving—are still too high for the present and an opposition not yet ready to face the realities of the present dilemma.

Over a year ago, the people of Alabama sent a message to Montgomery, we want a government with a plan, a conservative government that will make hard choices for hard times.

Having made great progress on ethics and immigration reform, Alabama’s elected leaders are still facing a Gordian knot of trouble.
Not the least of which is that the 2013 General Fund will experience a $400 million deficit.

Recently, the governor floated the idea of unearmarking some items in the Education Trust Fund to offset the growing deficit in the General Fund. At the time he said, “ I can already hear the arguments that I care more about the prisoners than I do about the children.”

And as if on cue, Henry Mabry, the in-coming head to the Alabama teachers union said, …well you guessed it…Mabry told the ‘Gadsden Times’ that the governor wanted to take money away from the children and give it to prisoners.

This is the same aged, well-worn patter that has been used as an incendiary bomb by the AEA and Democrats for years. Did Mr. Mabry miss the last election cycle? The people of Alabama have seen this play before. Does anyone really believe that Governor Bentley can be cast as benefactor of convicts and Ebenezer Scrooge to the children? I doubt it. Have you met Governor Bentley? The people are not going to believe the AEA this time; Bentley is a good man trying to tackle the seemingly insurmountable problems facing our state. Many Alabamans, even teachers, had hope Mabry would bring something new to the AEA, had hoped that the new boss would not be the same as the old boss. This is not a good start, sir.

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Sadly, the Democrats who are used to carrying the AEA’s water echoed Mabry with Pavlovian zeal.

In contrast, the governor is looking for ways to work for all Alabamians, what about the AEA and Democrats offering more to the dialogue than “No?”

This is not to say that the idea the governor is talking about it necessarily the right one, as it would take several amendments to the Alabama Constitution to unearmark from one fund to the other, but the Governor is absolutely right to put every idea on the table in order to find a solution to Alabama’s fiscal crisis.

Of course, add to the current list of budget woes the RSA disaster, another $700 or $800 million to be made up by the taxpayers of Alabama. It seems the RSA can’t seem to make an investment that would not make Jon Corzine blush. With the RSA failure there will be more money coming out of the budget.

The Governor, the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem are all successful business leaders, they will need to bring all the skill they have learned in the private sector to try and sort out Alabama’s budgetary failings. This will mean making tough choices, even politically risky ones as well. But now is the time for bold leadership, firm resolve, and a steady hand on the ship of state.

Trying to paint the Governor, as friend of prisoners and enemy of the kids is a sad, tired political trick.

One of the major things the Governor will have to save is Medicaid. Is that okay with the AEA?

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Our poorest children rely on Medicaid to enable them to receive medical care. While the program is in dire need of overhaul, is this not a program that the Democrats want to save?

Alabamians are a great and good people, most of us know what it is to live within our means and those who don’t will someday learn a hard lesson.

Life is not fair and only people with rotten goods to sell will tell you differently.

Now is the time for the democrats to rise up and show that they are leaders not followers of the bygone status quo. There are smart and brave people in the Democrat Party but they have been held back, pushed down or told it is not your turn. The Alabama Democrats can do better than saying “No,” they can do better than their predecessors. The day of the bosses should be over, buried in the potter’s field of political history.

There is a need for new, smart thinkers to step up, step out and make a difference.

Those Democrats who care about social equality, providing for the weakest among us must heed President Clinton’s views that if you want to be socially progressive then you must be fiscally conservative.

There is no swift sword to cut the complex knot of Alabama’s problems.

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All legislators must come together with powerful inspiration and make tough choices to see Alabama through these difficult times.

All must work together in honesty and good faith to make Alabama even better.

We wish them all God speed.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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