By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
They met. They adjourned. They met again. And they failed.
Nearly a half-million dollars down the toilet. Now, another half-million will be spent again.
That’s what a special session of the Legislature costs Alabama taxpayers. That the Legislature, whose primary duty is to pass state budgets, can’t pass a state General Fund Budget (SGF), calls up the clichés.
They make it easy on the opinion writers. My late, great editor Ron Casey at The Birmingham News said if you want to write about fine wines, move to France. If you want to write editorials, move to Alabama.
What boggles the mind is, well, lawmakers’ minds.
Republicans dominate the governor’s mansion and State House. They have the majority. No, the supermajority.
That can do whatever the hell they want. And they don’t. What the hell?
There is a $200 million deficit in the SGF. There’s no wiping that out without tax increases. Get used to it. The rhetoric is over. No new taxes doesn’t work, anymore than dozens of other clichés.
“Those who fail to prepare are preparing to fail.”
The Alabama Legislature prepared well. To fail. And it did. Good preparation, no doubt. Three weeks in recess to prepare for failure. Can’t go wrong with that much preparation.
They were called into special session in early July, then adjourned for three weeks to think things over. They came back, all prepared to fail, and they failed wonderfully. If failure were an art, these folks are Picassos.
What they came up with in this special session was obscene. Pornography. You know it when you see it. They would balance the budget on our poorest citizens’ backs, slashing Medicaid to an extent that would have closed hospitals and, well, killed people.
They would have, at one point, killed Forever Wild, the popular program to set aside wild areas for us to enjoy, to save state parks, which we also enjoy.
They would have ruined other state services – mental health, child welfare, public safety. All for the pathetic rhetoric: No new taxes.
The cost of services, public or private, don’t go down. They only go up. That’s physics, or something scientific, anyway. I don’t know. It’s just the world.
“We learn little from success, but a lot from failure.”
Our Legislature has to be filled with Einsteins. They’re brilliant. In the regular session that ended in June, they failed to pass an acceptable SGF. In this just complete special session, they failed to pass any SGF – unacceptable or not.
They are actually going backwards. If they learn from failure, they’ve got to be really smart by now.
Are they so smart that the next special session called by the governor to fix the SGF will be a success? My worry is they haven’t learned enough yet. And that means, very possibly, another failed special session, at $500,000 a pop.
“There is no such thing as CAN’T. It’s either you can, or you don’t want to. Which one are you choosing?”
See, our lawmakers know what they should do. Bentley made that clear. Our poor state needs more revenue. We need gambling or more taxes or both or all. We need to face our demons, and our lawmakers must do the right thing.
They know what it is, and it isn’t getting rid of Forever Wild or killing poor people by throwing them off Medicaid. It isn’t leaving our mentally ill residents to their own devices, and it isn’t failing to save abused children. It isn’t firing state troopers, and it isn’t isolating those in the Black Belt more than they’re already isolated.
Lawmakers know what it is, but they don’t want to do it.
We’re in a mess, folks. A big ol’ mess. A mess that we won’t get out of without leadership, something we sorely lack. It’s a mess of a mess.
Next special session, they either will or they won’t. We need a budget by Oct. 1. That’s not far away. I mean, it’s almost here.
“Fail seven times, but get up eight.”
Please, please don’t take eight special sessions to pass a General Fund budget. Just do what’s right. You know what that is.
And I’m sick and tired of these clichés, too.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes this column every Wednesday for Alabama Political Reporter.
Email: [email protected].