Governor Robert Bentley is seeking to cut the Alabama budget by 25%. The Legislative Fiscal Office projects a $170 million shortfall in the Fiscal Year 2012 general fund and a $23 million deficit in the education fund. The two largest line items in the general fund are Corrections and Medicaid. Governor Bentley has promised not to cut any money from Corrections. Local school administrators have been warned to expect 3-5% cuts for Fiscal Year 2012.
Cuts in education and social programs are not going to help the budget long term. Cutting education spending is perhaps the worst way to handle long term budget problems. Alabama is perennially in the bottom ten states in the nation when it comes to graduation rate. Governor Bentley’s solution is to give more control on the local level. While this has worked well in our area, this is not the solution to the entire state’s problem.
The best way to fix the state budget is through a stronger economy. More jobs and more businesses mean more tax revenue for the state. Alabama’s unemployment rate has been dropping like the rest of the nation’s lately, but a nearly $200 million budget deficit means there is still some work to be done on the revenue side. Local governments could be of use here as we need more business friendly city councils spurring on entrepreneurs and not getting in the way. Local governments are far more likely to get in the way of small business than the federal government.
As reported in an earlier story, the Alabama Sentencing Commission is consider rule changes that would mean longer sentences and thus more prisoners. At a time when we are cutting our education budget we should not be growing our Corrections budget. Education may be the best crime fighting tool we have as multiple studies show the more education a person receives the less likely they are to commit a crime. By cutting education spending and upping Corrections spending it is as if the state is giving up on its own people.
It is important to be fiscally responsible, but we must not lose sight of our long term goals. We can not sacrifice the down payment on our future that is the education of our children. A better society is being built everyday across the country, and it is being built in the classroom.