By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Montgomery–UPDATE/Correction–The General Fund Budget has been a thorn in the flesh to many in state government.
But Senator Dick Brewbaker (R-Montgomery) has been especially vocal in what he sees as a wrong-headed solution to the state fiscal problems. He has even questioned the constitutionality of the bill’s passage.
Not far behind Brewbaker is his senate colleague from across the aisle Roger Bedford (D-Florence).
Brewbaker along with Senators Bussman, Beason, McGill and Sanford vote against the eleventh hour budget. “I voted against the General Fund Budget because it’s unconstitutional,” said Brewbaker. “The only thing the legislature must do in a session is pass a balanced budget.”
Brewbaker says because the budget requires a constitutional amendment to make it whole and balanced that it does not fit the definition of being balanced.
The constitutional amendment will go before the voters in a special election in September. If approved the money from the Alabama Trust Fund (ATF) would go to fully fund Medicaid and the Department of Correction.
Brewnaker says that there are even bigger issues with the budget than it constitutionality. He says that raiding of the ATF to fund the general budget is a terrible mistake and poor leadership.
“To balance this budget, all we did was kick the can down the road for 3 years by taking $450 million out of the principle of the ATF,” said Brewbaker.
In even more critical terms for a republican Brewbaker says that, “Governor [Don] Siegleman criticized the daylights out of the Democrats for ‘raiding the Trust Fund’ but they never went into the principle like we are doing.”
Governor Bentley signed the budget with the constitutional amendment with little commentary.
As a matter of fact the Governor’s office has not issued a Press Release since May 18.
Brewbaker points out that $450 million that goes to make the General Fund Budget whole has no provision for paying back the funds taken from the ATF. “People don’t need to confuse that with the Rainy Day Fund that does get paid back,” said Brewbaker.
Fellow senator Bedford says, “The smart thing to have done would have been to fully-fund Medicaid and let the cuts fall in the prison system and then have a straight up-or-down vote on funding that. Instead what the Republican Supermajority has done is they have put all agencies, including Medicaid, in danger.”
Bedford along with House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) offered a budget that would have fully funded Medicaid but it was rejected by the GOP majority.
“Our budget would have worked. It would have been entirely funded and then paid back with the postponing the payment back into the Canfield Account,” said Bedford. “It was fiscally sound and worked without raising taxes or fees.”
In what might be called bi partisan thinking, Brewbaker and Bedford agree that the budget is a disaster waiting to happen.
Both are concerned that Alabama voters will not have an appetite to raid the Alabama Trust Fund to support Medicaid and prisons.
“The voters may [vote for this] because the story line is going to be ‘If you don’t vote for this we are kicking your grandmother out of her nursing home and we are going to let 18,000 ax murderers loose in your neighborhood,” said Brewbaker.
“It is not a good budget practice, what they did. It’s more smoke and mirrors,” said Bedford.
Bedford said one of the biggest obstacles to finding a sound budget solution was the lack of bipartisan debate within the senate.
Bedford said, “It is a disservice to the taxpayers not to allow accountability and broad ranging debate but the Supermajority has them [Senators] quacking like 22 ducks in a row.”
It seems Brewbaker did not get his marching orders.