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We must act now to avert disasters facing Alabama budgets

By: Sen. Roger Bedford


Last Wednesday House Minority Leader Craig Ford and I held a news conference to outline the Democrats’ plan to prevent the budget disaster our state is facing and to protect Medicaid funding and education in Alabama.

On Friday Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Don Williamson, who chairs Alabama’s Medicaid Transition Committee, said that Alabama is “on a catastrophic precipice” due to the dire situation facing Medicaid.

Medicaid is $200 million short in funding in the current General Fund Budget.

This will wreak havoc on the health and well being of citizens across our state.

For every one dollar that Alabama spends toward Medicaid, we get more than two additional dollars in matching funds from the federal government.

So the $202 million shortfall we currently face in Alabama’s Medicaid budget will actually cost our state more than $600 million. This is unacceptable.

People will die if we do not fund Medicaid. Seniors will be put out of nursing homes. Babies and children will have no health care.

Mothers will not have prenatal care. Businesses will refuse to locate in our state or even leave if we can not provide basic health care services.

Our entire state’s economy will suffer. Alabama’s failure to properly fund Medicaid, as Dr. Williamson said Friday, will create a “death spiral” and “the economic calamity that will follow will be nothing short of catastrophic.” We cannot allow this to happen.

Thankfully, we can protect our seniors, families and children without raising taxes.

The plan Democrats proposed last week not only will provide Medicaid with the funding it so desperately needs, it will also save 1,900 education jobs as well as provide funding to ensure school bus safety.

Governor Bentley has proposed raiding the Education Trust Fund to bail out Medicaid. This is not an option.

Education in Alabama is facing its own struggles, and we can’t solve the crises in the General Fund budget by raiding the Education Trust Fund.

Alabama is currently 47th out of 50 states in education funding.

We are already at the bottom, and our children cannot afford more devastating cuts. Averting one disaster by creating another is no solution. We can’t — and won’t — rob Peter’s children to pay Paul.

Instead, the legislation put forth by Democrats in the House and Senate last week protects both Medicaid and education, and it does so without raising one cent in taxes on hardworking Alabama families.

Our proposal modifies the Canfield Rolling Reserve Act, which was enacted just last year, by providing that it will not go into effect until state revenues again reach fiscal year 2008 levels.

The Canfield Act limits spending of existing funds. Such a proposal might work during times of economic prosperity.

But during tough economic times like the ones our citizens presently face, it will have devastating long-term effects.

By modifying the Canfield Act, the Education Trust Fund could then transfer funds to the General Fund Budget in exchange for forgiveness of the debt that the Education Trust Funds owes to Alabama’s Rainy Day Account (also known as theAlabama Trust Fund).

This will protect Medicaid and education. Our legislation will also enable Alabamians to vote on whether to use new funds going into the Alabama Trust Fund to pay for vital services such as Medicaid now and in future years.

Through years of proration and other financial crises, Democrats always found a way to protect Alabama seniors, children, working families AND education.

The plan we’ve proposed this year will continue to do just that. We urge the governor and the leadership in the House and Senate to support this plan, which will avert disaster without placing any additional tax burdens on Alabama citizens.

We also call on the governor to include this legislation in his call for the upcoming special session to address legislative redistricting.


Roger Bedford is a state senator for Franklin County.