By Senator Gerald Dial
I hope your family had a very merry Christmas! With the New Year upon us, I want to give you some reasons for optimism as Alabama heads into 2016. Too often, people focus on the negative, on the challenges our state and nation face, forgetting that we are the most blessed people on the planet. So here are three brief reasons for optimism as we start a new calendar.
First, the number of Alabamians in the workforce rose in 2015, and I am confident the number of people working will increase again in 2016. According to Governor Bentley’s office, the Civilian Labor Force increased from 2,130,131 in November 2014 to 2,146,294 in November 2015. The economy still isn’t growing as fast as anyone would like, but Alabama is headed in the right direction.
A job is essential to providing a sense of dignity and worth, not to mention providing food and shelter for one’s family. I am proud to support conservative, pro-growth policies in the Legislature that will make it easier for companies to grow and offer more jobs to Alabamians. In 2015 alone, companies like Remington, Airbus, and GE Aviation announced plans to begin large-scale projects in Alabama.
Second, as a state, we are making the right decision to invest additional resources in our education system. Despite a grim financial situation this year with our state budgets, I worked hard to help pass a robust budget for our teachers and schools. The fiscal year 2016 education budget was $5.99 billion – the largest education budget in five years. The budget included a $13 million increase for textbooks, a $3 million increase for classroom materials, and a $4.5 million increase for transportation operations.
Third, the dedication and professionalism of our teachers gives me optimism for 2016. You sometimes hear politicians unfairly malign teachers, but Alabama’s educators are second-to-none in their dedication to providing a quality education for our students. I promise to always fight to support our students and teachers by protecting the education budget from cuts. Making cuts to education, or shifting resources from education to the state General Fund, to help balance our state finances is a penny-wise-but-pound-foolish notion that will hamper Alabama’s long-term prosperity.
The bottom line is the Grinch did not steal our Christmas spirit or our optimism this year. As I wish you a happy New Year, let us make sure in 2016 the Grinch does not steal our state’s future by cutting badly-needed funds for Alabama’s schools.
Gerald Dial represents District 13 in the Alabama Senate, which includes all or parts of Randolph, Lee, Cleburne, Clay, Cherokee, and Chambers counties. He serves as Chairman of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. Gerald and his wife Faye reside in Lineville.