State finances are bad this year, but will soon get worse

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY-Having only recently made it abundantly clear how unconcerned you are about the financial crisis in state government most of you are probably in no mind to hear any more about it…but hear it you must.
Gov. Bob Riley used the pulpit afforded him by the office he holds to remind one and all that crisis which faced the state this year ain't nothing compared to what is will face next year.
He said the Special Education Trust Fund will have $285 million less to spend next year than was appropriated this year; the General Fund is facing a shortfall of $273 million. And that is on a budget of only $1.1 billion.
Riley came up with no solutions to this crisis other than to say he would recommend the repeal of a controversial pension plan approved several years ago. It is called the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) and it was advertised as an option to keep good employees and teachers from retiring early.
It is expected to cost the state about $26 million a year when it is fully implemented.
The national news media for weeks has given an inordinate amount of attention…negative attention…to the continuing death of American servicemen and women in Iraq.
Certainly the loss of any American life in Iraq is tragic. No American would discount in the least the agony and grief associated with even one soldier's death.
But having served in World War II and clearly remembering the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, I wonder if when we look at the number of deaths in the war in Iraq should we not say "Thank God"?
Since the outbreak of that war some five months ago, the KIA list as been thankfully low…only a fraction over one American killed each day.
Compare this with Vietnam (18 deaths per day); Korea (32 a day); and World War II, where an average of 219 Americans were killed each day during the 1,850 days of that war.
Again, I am not taking anything away from the tragic loss of American lives in Iraq…but I do wonder if some members of the national news media have lost their perspective.
At Riley's request, the Legislature in its recent special session increased the size of the board from three to seven members in order to cope with the mass release of prisoners necessitated by the serious overcrowding in the prisons.
Riley not only filled the four new seats but also filled an existing vacancy on the board.
Named to the vacant seat was Bobby Longshore, Montgomery, a former federal probation officer; the new members are Cliff Walker, Bessemer, a former lobbyist for AmSouth Bank; Lowell McGill, Atmore, a state probation officer; Jennifer Garrett, Montgomery, an attorney; and Don McGriff, Montrose, a member of the Baldwin County Board of Education and an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor.
The Auburn chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has unanimously passed a resolution calling on State Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffee, to resign as a member of the AU Board of Trustees.
Barron's term on the board expired last January, but using his enormous influence in the Senate he has blocked efforts by that chamber to confirm his success.
That being so, he continues to serve as a trustee.

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