MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - With two-thirds of the regular legislative session remaining, Gov. Robert Bentley is already talking about the possibility of a costly special session of the Legislature if lawmakers fail to seriously address the fiscal issues that face the state's General Fund budget.
Bentley doesn't want a special session any more than legislators -- or taxpayers. What he really wants is for the Legislature to solve the state's budget problems now.
To balance the General Fund budget for the coming fiscal year, lawmakers will have to either raise taxes or drastically cut services to Alabamians. Bentley has proposed $541 million in new taxes, which his finance director has said could solve the chronic General Fund budget issues for up to 10 years. But legislators don't seem to have the intestinal fortitude to support his proposals.
There is still plenty of time to act in this regular session and avoid a special session.
If they would adopt enough of the governor's proposed tax increases they could avoid deep cuts in General Fund programs -- prisons and state law enforcement, Medicaid and many other necessary state services. All of these services have already been cut to the bone and many are on virtual life support.
Special sessions cost the taxpayers almost $100,000 a week, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office. A special session can last up to 12 legislative work days spread over as many as 30 calendar days, so the cost of a session to taxpayers could range from about $100,000 to almost $400,000.
Legislators should summon the courage to adopt enough new revenues to avoid drastic cuts in the budget. They also should do so quickly, so that the governor no longer feels he has to call a special session that would further drain the taxpayers' purse.