By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—State Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) is offering a plan to consolidate the State’s two-budget system, while protecting education and capping out of control spending.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Bussman, a doctor, said it is time for State government to stop putting a band-aid on its financial problems and fix the underling cause.
“For the last several decades, we’ve continued with a ‘band-aid’ approach when solving our budget problems…by not having any band-aids available this year, we passed a budget that was not reasonable. And we all know what the problem is: we have two budgets and we have too many earmarks,” Bussman said Tuesday.
Alabama operates from two separate budgets, the Education Trust Fund (ETF) and the State General Fund (SGF). As Bussman notes, the SGF is always woefully underfunded so, the State looks for one-time windfalls or where to borrow money to finance government services.
Under his plan, the legislature would unite the two budgets, remove earmarking on all revenue, and place spending caps on Medicaid and Corrections, the two largest items in the General Fund budget.
As a promise to protect Education from greedy or irresponsible political brokers, Bussman would mandate minimum funding for Education at no less than 52 percent of all revenue, with the possibility for more if the funds were available. The State currently spends around 52 percent of its revenue on Education. Bussman, would also rid Education of the superfluous items that currently are a part of the ETF.
Bussman’s proposed spending caps would limit Medicaid to 15 percent of all available revenue and Corrections to 4.5 percent. They currently are at 14.9 percent and 4.3 percent respectively. Additionally, the proposal will establish ten legislative subcommittees with specific agencies and budget areas for regular review. Each subcommittee would be tasked with detailed study to better identify budget priorities, which would be reported back to the respective General Fund committees in each chamber.
Bussman said, Republicans were elected by a “tired and fed-up public,” who were “tired of business-as-usual, gridlock, excuses, and political rhetoric.”
He believes, in many areas, that his party has delivered on the public mandate, but when it comes to State finances, they have not fully tackled the problem.
“We were sent down here to make some tough decisions that would change the way we do business in Alabama and, they asked us to do that without any concern for our political futures,” said Bussman. And this is what he is doing by offering a new direction in the budgeting process.
He concluded the press conference saying, “I believe Alabama has a tremendously bright future…we have anything anyone could want here. The decisions we make today will depend on just how bright that future is going to be.”