By David Grice
Mayor, City of Clio
Today, the Alabama Senate meets to decide whether or not to concur with the House amendment (and passage) of SB287(HB313), the Governor’s Prison Transformation Initiative Act plan. If the Senate concurs, Governor Bentley gets what he wants, albeit with the small snag of the Department of Corrections Commissioner having to come up with more grossly skewed figures, so that this bill can be voted on again within a year. The people of Alabama need to know what is really in the bill sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, and Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark.
In short, the Governor wants to borrow (via bonds) $800 MILLION dollars to pay a NON Alabama based construction company, who employs NON Alabamains, who will NOT PAY Alabama income taxes, to build four new prisons in Alabama. The total “POLITICAL FAVOR” payback is 1.5 BILLION dollars over 30 years. The cost savings pyramid scheme the Governor has spewed in his propaganda campaign, will not cover the $50 MILLION dollar-a-year note. This money will have to come from funding CUTS to almost EVERY other already strapped State agency, like MEDICAID and VETERANS AFFAIRS, or be made up in additional TAXES.
The plan is to build 3 new male, and 1 new female facility and close 12 out of 14 current prisons. The 3 new 4,000 bed prisons won’t even house all of our current male inmate population. What this actually translates to is that already unappreciated corrections officers, K9 teams, medical, vocational and support staff either LOSE their jobs, or have to MOVE, or have to COMMUTE hours every day to keep the same job at the same wage.
Logically our UNEMPLOYMENT rate will increase, and there will be LESS MONEY circulating in our State’s economy. Speaking of ECONOMIC IMPACT, the cities, towns, counties, and water authorities who have spent millions of dollars improving their systems to handle the largely ADEM mandated demands of supplying a prison, will suddenly LOSE their REVENUE, and will have to DEFAULT on notes, loans, and bonds, and will have to ultimately CUT PUBLIC SERVICES and PROGRAMS like FIRE, POLICE, and SENIOR CENTER to make ends meet. Both big chain stores and small mom and pop establishments will see a dramatic DROP in REVENUE when the officers stop coming in, and many will be forced to go OUT OF BUSINESS.
All of these facts are online and easily accessible, yet most people have no idea what this bill is hiding. The current Governor and the current DOC Commissioner want to hurry up and get it passed before the people of Alabama have a chance to understand what a catastrophe this will be for years to come. They have both been told by our State Auditor, Jim Zeigler that the entire plan is flawed and future generations of Alabamians will have to endure the huge financial burden of paying the bond issue back. The This will negatively impact Alabama as a whole for the next 30 years.
I think it’s time to once again “Stand Up for Alabama” and let your Senators know, we have had enough of the back scratching (or rubbing), desk moving, helicopter flying, wall building, witch hunting and money wasting deals that have made Alabama the butt of every political joke in recent history. I urge you to call every Senator on this list, who previously voted for its passage and encourage them to let this bill die.
I, as the Mayor of Clio, intend to fight the implementation of this plan until the Governor is gone, and I know that Easterling Correctional Facility is safe from the intended closures. The future stability and well being of Alabama’s economy is directly tied to an expenditure of this magnitude. It deserves more than two months worth of consideration before being shoved down the throats of the hard working, middle class Alabamians, who will ultimately foot the bill for a mistake forced by a Governor who has continuously misled both legislators and the people of our great State. Details of an $800 million dollar project should be made extremely public, and the legislators who voted to railroad it thru should be held accountable. Legislators are supposed to work for you, the people, black, or white, rich, or poor.