By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
One truth we’ve learned about Alabama lawmakers in 2015 after a regular session and a special session to write a state General Fund Budget (SGF): They’re very successful.
Successful. At failure.
They couldn’t fail any better. After passing an unworkable SGF in the regular session that Gov. Robert Bentley vetoed, they returned in a July/August special session (our cost: half a million dollars) and passed nothing.
Now, a special session started Tuesday is the last hope before the Oct. 1 deadline to have a SGF in place.
Really, it doesn’t look good. We very well may see another huge success at failure.
In preparation for that failure, Bentley has drawn up a list of likely cuts if his latest request for about $260 million in revenue increases doesn’t come out of this current special session.
As reported by Alabama Political Reporter’s Brandon Moseley, it’s an ugly list, one that no Alabama resident should condone.
How about closing state parks? Maybe all 15 state parks. That means no Lake Guntersville or Gulf Shores or Oak Mountain. Cheaha and little Chewalca and Rickwood Caverns.
Is this something Alabamians want? Definitely not.
We’ll get it, though, if lawmakers are characteristically successful in their failure.
Like renewing your driver license? Well, you’ll really love it, as Moseley reported, all but driver license offices except Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham and Huntsville are closed. Nothing like waiting in a long line after driving 100 miles to make a day successful.
We may be encouraged to speed with the layoff of 75 of 431 state troopers. We won’t be happy, though, when we wait for hours for one after becoming stranded on the side of the highway or have some other problem.
Who cares if the state Department of Public Health has to slash the staff of restaurant health inspectors – a job that already is overburdened by too many restaurants and too few inspection? A few more roaches or mouse droppings in our barbecue? Let’s call it a “protein enhancement.”
In this day and age, we don’t have to worry about arson, so there will be little impact if the Department of Forensic Sciences has to stop fire debris analysis. And diagnostic labs that test dead farm animals for diseases? The Department of Agriculture and Industries don’t need no stinkin’ diagnostic lab for dead farm animals. Let’s just eat ‘em.
We’re always recruiting new industry, but so what if the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs has to eliminate the Alabama Rural Development Office, the Small Business Office, the Appalachian Regional Commission and lose federal money from the Community Development Block Grant and the Community Service Block Grant? Federal funds? We don’t need no stinkin’ federal funds, either.
And, of course, Medicaid will likely have to make cuts in medical services for the poor and nursing home services for the elderly. We can prop Mom and Dad up in the mudroom.
Medicaid? We don’t need no stinkin’ Medicaid.
Except: We do.
Alabama is a poor state. Many of our state’s poorest people – the elderly, children, disabled – depend on Medicaid to survive. And already, Alabama has one of the most – if not THE MOST – inaccessible Medicaid systems in the nation.
Why won’t Bentley and the Legislature consider EXPANDING Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act? Is that too simple? Millions of dollars, perhaps billions of dollars, in money would pour in from the federal government. Easily enough to cover the estimated $200 million Bentley and the Legislature are so successfully failing to bring down if we’d done the right thing in 2014. Or even now. I wouldn’t be writing this rant if Bentley and the Legislature had just been more compassionate. Instead, hundreds of thousands of the working poor – people who make too much money for Medicaid but too little for subsidies for health insurance – will go without health insurance.
No, we’d rather gamble with our future – literally. Del Marsh (R-Anniston), “leader” in the Senate, wants a lottery and casino gambling. Fine. Two years from now, right? Because voters have to change the decrepit state constitution we’re forced to operate under because the Alabama Legislature has been amazingly successful in failing to fix it.
So we have a governor, Robert Bentley, damaged by allegations of infidelity in his half-century of Christian marriage; Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), speaker of the House, damaged because of 23 felony charges of corruption; and Marsh, who is offering slot machines and scratch-offs as the best he can do. By the way, in case I haven’t said it enough, they are all Republicans, all of the same party, the same breed. The same people who begged to govern, and then cannot. Please, don’t breed.
So here we are, poised to succeed. In failure. In absolute, perfect, ultimate failure. Failure to the state, state employees who will lose their jobs and citizens who will lose even more meager services.
Hell, I could do that all by myself, and with practically none of the drama.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes this column every Wednesday for Alabama Political Reporter.
Email: [email protected].