Inside Alabama's Legislature: Legislators face a real mess with state budgets

Montgomery, Al (WSFA) - The reality that legislators may have to cut almost a billion dollars from next year's education budget is starting to sink in. They are starting to learn just how perplexing the state's financial situation really is. Budget hearings began Tuesday and education leaders gave an eye opening look at the future.

It's a heck of a mess legislators have found themselves in. There seems to be no way around the cuts that are on the way. However, the State Superintendent of Education, Joe Morton, presented a budget asking for more money and not less. That prompted legislators like Representative Patricia Todd, (D) Birmingham, to voice their objections. "I think it is unfair that the governor or department head come to us with an unrealistic budget and then expect us to cut and then in essence have to take the hit from the public on that."

And, what a hit it might be. One legislator, James Thomas, (D) Selma, who is also a high school principal in the Black Belt sees nothing ahead but doom and gloom.  "For the second year in a row U.S. News and World Report has cited my school as being one of the 100 best schools in the nation - as of this moment. And, I'm about to see all of that blown away."

Although teachers' jobs can't be touched during the year, it's the non-tenured, beginning teachers who might be worried when May comes.Representative Betty Carol Graham, asked for help.  "So, I'm asking you to commit to me that you will report to the Education Finance Committee what you can suggest to save teachers' jobs and to reassure them that Alabama is open for business, we appreciate the job they're doing and we're going to do everything we can to let you put your head on your pillow at night and without worrying about whether or not you will have a job tomorrow."

The cut-backs are also hitting the two year colleges and higher ed. The Chancellor of Postsecondary, Bradley Byrne, told legislators that the Aviation College planned for Enterprise-Ozark this summer will have to be put on hold for at least a year.

Budget hearings scheduled for Wednesday have been postponed until Thursday. That's so lawmakers can attend the funeral of State Senator Pat Lindsey on Wednesday.  

Reporter: Eileen Jones