By Vernon Burns
The collapse of the welfare state is at hand in Alabama. It is being consumed in the uncontrollable fire of government promoted entitlement and dependence and the only answer coming from our political class is to throw more money into the ever expanding destruction.
Our governor and our legislature are asking the voters of Alabama to approve the breaking of a pledge made to future generations, by the people of Alabama in 1982, to hold the income we receive from oil and gas royalties in a permeant trust. The Alabama Trust Fund was created to be a growing investment for our state and the income generated by that trust, and only that income, is to be used to fund the legitimate functions of our state government.
This is the farsighted and common sense use of monies, generated by an exhaustible natural resource, that has been passed to this generation for safe keeping. Now our elected leaders, spurred on by lobbyist and union bosses, are demanding we throw away what is now future generations birth rights for a very short term “Fix” to a broken system.
The greatest insult to our intelligence is that as this demand is being made, with absolute guaranteed assurance of the total destruction of our states health care system, the prison system, and economy in general, if it is not met, our political leadership offers no plans to repay what is being robbed from the trust and no plans to solve the problems that have caused this budgetary black hole.
How have we come to this point? What has taken us down this path of self destruction? Many, many, well intentioned and compassionate reasons, but the underlying cause is best summed up in a quote often credited to former British Prime Minister, Margarret Thatcher. “Socialism works great until you run out of other peoples money.”
Our state is out of money, other peoples and otherwise. Working people and most businesses have been hurting now for years. The Baby Boomers can not retire or if they do it is to survival and hope for better days. Almost everyone in our state has suffered a reduction in income, many all the way down to zero or below. The owners of small business, in countless cases, have watched as a lifetime of work turned into a mountain of debt while they tried to hang on not wanting to let the business go and its employees down.
Now in the middle of this perfect storm, we have a real state budget crisis!! It is true this is a crisis that was foretold decades ago but it is real and it is here now. The doomsday predicaments being sighted by some can come to pass if we do not have real leadership from our governor and our legislature. This proposed “Fix”, breaking into the trust, is no solution at best and a joke, some kind of political brinksmanship gone to far, at worst. The taking of the 430 million dollars (about 20%) of the principal from the Alabama Trust Fund with no plans to repay that money tells us that in the end these people want to take it all. Also refusing to address the problems that are forcing this super crisis tells us our leaders do not see a problem. They just need more of our money to fund it.
What to do now? I would respectfully ask Governor Bentley and the leadership of our legislature working together to call a special session, as soon as possible to address these problems. Make it a special session of elected officials only, no lobbyists and no union bosses, Give us real solutions, not gimmickry. Reform state government, this is the real solution. Time is short and it will not be easy. Nothing of value is ever easy. Most will say working in a crisis will not produce good results but crisis situations can and will bring out the best in most of us.
Remember our nation was conceived and founded in a great crisis and war. Remember too that the very framework of our Republic, our Constitution was created in crisis. It was hammered out, with much debate, over the hot summer of 1786 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 55 delegates spent most of the 124 days required, to create the greatest system of self government ever known, locked in a steaming room with doors and windows shut so their debates could remain private. Delegate, Benjamin Franklin was 81 years old.
We, in Alabama, must do better than this proposed irresponsible and reckless plan. Waiting for the people to reject it in a Constitutional amendment vote on September 18th is only wasting time and deepening the problems.
We wish our elected representatives God’s guidance and God’s speed.