Feed The Pig!
Please sit down before you read this….
The mainstream media has been front and center on feeding the frenzy surrounding the Alabama legislature’s failure to pass a FY16 General Fund Appropriations bill. Often referring to the issue as a “crisis”, they repeatedly refer to the $200 million difference between actual revenue and the desire to fund at FY15 levels as a budget “hole,” or “deficit,” or “shortfall.” They go further to characterize the legislature’s inaction as “irresponsible,” “unconscionable” and “reprehensible.”
Say it enough and it becomes fact. Legislators are now spewing the same rhetoric.
So, it was with some degree of surprise (sitting down yet?) to read Kyle Whitmire’s article in al.com discussing what would happen if the fiscal year begins without an appropriations bill passing to fund state agencies (see: “What happens if Alabama doesn’t have a budget by October?” at http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/08/what_happens_if_alabama_doesnt.html#incart_river).
According to Whitmire, 1975 was the last time the state began a new fiscal year without any spending authority. It’s an interesting read on Governor George Wallace having to call four special sessions in order to finally get a budget.
But buried in the article is a more compelling note.
Whitmire states that the legislature passed a $188 million General Fund appropriations bill on October 9, 1975 that included a raid of $30 million from Education appropriations. “In today’s money that would be equivalent to $824 million. Last year’s General Fund budget was almost twice that.”
He goes further “And much like today, the state’s Education Trust Fund dwarfed the General Fund. When the Alabama legislature finally passed an education budget in November of that year (1975), it appropriated more than $800 million to colleges and schools. In 2015 dollars that’s about $3.54 billion. Earlier this year, the Alabama Legislature approved a $5.98 billion education budget.”
Wow! How did we get to where we are?