MONTGOMERY (March 29, 2013) – In yet another year of trying to balance the General Fund budget, the Governor and the State Senate are attempting to break our trust with our children. They have approved spending in the amount of a little over $1.7 billion and, just like last year, they could not find enough money to pay for it.
In September of last year they asked the voters to approve taking millions from the Alabama Trust Fund, which they did. This year they asked no one. Instead, they joined forces to take it from our children.
Fifteen years ago, our government, in a bipartisan effort, passed a special trust for the neediest of our children, who had no voice and no vote. This fund, known as the Children First Trust Fund (CFTF) was, and still is, by law funded by 46 percent of all Tobacco Settlement dollars paid to Alabama.
Unlike a lot of state spending, the CFTF’s dollars are carefully targeted to programs that meet critical needs of our children. The appropriated funds require strict accountability and are getting results. Some examples of the historic progress that have been made by these dollars are:
- Alabama’s historically high infant-death rate has fallen;
- The number of juveniles incarcerated by the Department of Youth Services have decreased 44 percent since 2006 and serious juvenile crime has declined;
- The All Kids children’s health insurance program has experienced 100 percent enrollment. This places Alabama in a group of only five states in the country with 100 percent enrollment;
- Funding for foster care serves 5,700 needy children annually;
- Tobacco sales to minors are now at the lowest level ever for our state;
- 67 schools received life skills and tobacco-prevention training from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
“Why the Senate would attempt to change a 15 year old law, in order to make it legal to take money which is targeted to help thousands of needy children and is getting historic results, is tragic and disturbing. What are they thinking?” stated John Hall, President of Children First Foundation, a non-profit organization that advocated for the creation of the CFTF and has served as a watchdog over it through the years.
This year the Senate has proposed decreases to the CFTF in two ways. One bill, SB 287, attempts to intercept approximately $22 million in one-time tobacco money and move it into the State General Fund. Another bill, SB 288, takes $3 million of the Department of Public Health’s annual appropriation and moves it to projects in certain legislators’ home districts. These bills are now moving into the House of Representatives for their consideration.
According to Christy Mehaffey, Executive Director of the Foundation, “We are counting on the good members of the House to save this money for our children. They stood by the kids last year and we look forward to working with them to stop the attempt to raid the Children First Trust Fund, so that the progress that we have seen can continue.”
“We need Alabamians to reach out to our state leaders and speak for the children of Alabama who have no vote,” states Mehaffey, “they are powerless and they need our help.”
Children First Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to improving the lives of Alabama’s children and families by shaping public policy. The Foundation was formed because our states’ leaders and child advocates saw a need to advocate for children in the halls of Alabama’s legislature. For more information, please visit www.alabamachildrenfirst.com.