Expert weighs in on Alabama's budget issues

By Elizabeth Gentle - bio | email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF)- During his first State of The State address, Governor Bentley called the current budget unrealistic.

Bentley told taxpayers "We face great challenges in Alabama...tough choices have been made."

After less than two months in office, he declared another round of proration and state cuts, so some are wondering if the blame should go back to past administrations.

"Here in Alabama we have inherited a budget this year, at best is unrealistic," said Governor Bentley.

The budget he was given is now littered with cuts to education and the general fund.

So who is to blame for Alabama's devastating deficit?

WAFF-48 Political Analyst Dr. Wayman Burke weighed in.

"There is enough blame to go around whether its administration or previous legislatures. It's been a practice in Alabama as in other states that budgets are built on hope rather than reality," said Dr. Burke.

Dr. Burke says one the problem in this budget is that it was built partly on stimulus money that was there one time only and is no longer available.

He says that hole has to be plugged---but how?

"Under the state constitution the only way to do that is to prorate the budget so that the expenditures match the revenue," said Dr. Burke.

Bentley promised to present a budget that will never again be prorated--one that will be responsible and conservative.

"We will see but that sounds rather difficult because there are so many unforeseen circumstances that can impact a budget," said Dr. Burke.

Also, steep cuts in the state's general fund could eliminate funding for 31 agencies or programs. Many of them tourism related.

Governor Bentley told tax says we cannot afford to continue to support nonessential programs.

That means eliminating tax dollars, which businesses depend on to keep their doors open.

One of those is the space and rocket center.

WAFF-48 Political Analyst Dr. Wayman Burke is on the board.

He said the Space and Rocket Center receives about half million dollars a year from the state while other monies come from revenue earned, federal grants, and local logging tax.

Dr. Burke says the Space and Rocket Center, which has suffered economic set backs in the past, can't afford to lose that state funding.

He says many other businesses in the state can't either.

"We need those tourism dollars that is one of the top revenue sources in the State of Alabama. Without it what happens unless local communities come up with the money to keep local attractions open many may close,' said Dr. Burke.

Bentley told taxpayers historical sites, tourist attractions and halls of fame are wonderful for tourism and travel, but they are not as important as providing health care to low income children or elderly or as to keeping state troopers on the road.

Businesses say they agree, but they too have to make a living.

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