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This year's fix may haunt state in future

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY–It is little wonder that the taxpayers of Alabama take with a grain of salt…maybe that should be a block of salt…anything they hear or read about the financial crisis in state government.
For months they have heard about how desperately short the state was in money to fund the schools. There was dire talk of layoffs, cutbacks in programs, teachers being forced to pay more for their insurance and retirement…on and on it went.
But lo and behold, last week the Legislature passed an education budget that was not only balanced but includes none of the draconian cuts which had been prophesied so long. In fact the $4.5 million budget is $249 million larger than the current year budget.
Were the politicians lying about the financial crisis? If they weren't lying, how did they come up with a balanced budget?
Have you ever heard of bandaids…masking tape…baling wire…whatever?
Yes, an improving economy which has given a boost to sales and income tax collections, helped greatly, but mostly it was some nifty patching and shifting that did the job…putting off until next year what eventually is going to be a major crisis.
Even Gov. Riley was reasonably satisfied with the education budget. He said he would like make some minor executive amendments to the bill but none of them are expected to jeopardize the measure.
The news is not nearly so good as far as the much smaller ($1.3 billion) General Fund budget, but there, too, some form of agreement between the Legislature and the governor seems likely.
The idea had been promoted by a group of students at Fairhope Elementary School.
Holmes ripped and snorted about the color of the berry…wondering why the students had not chosen a berry with a different color..perhaps the strawberry or the raspberry.
But he didn't stop there. He even took a shot at the young people from Fairhope who had come up with the idea, calling them the offspring of "silk-stockinged Republicans" in Baldwin County.
Even Holmes' own black colleagues in the House were made uncomfortable by his antics.
For the record, the bill…sponsored by Sen. Bradley Byrne, R- Montrose–eventually was approved by the House and was signed into law by Gov. Riley on the campus of the elementary school on Saturday.
Appropriately, at the luncheon that followed the signing the governor and guests dined on blackberry cobbler.
Already passed by the Senate, the measure came out of a House committee last week and could be voted on this week. Because it is an amendment to the constitution it must be voted on by the people.
It will likely be on the November general election ballot, although that is still the subject of some disagreement. Some Democrats would rather the referendum not be held on the same day as the presidential election.
His extraordinary work at the University of Alabama-Birmingham in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases won him international acclaim.
More than that, it saved and improved the lives of countless thousands of people.
Not only did the revolutionary procedures he developed save lives, but more importantly he shared his skills with hundreds of other medical college students who are using their skills to save others.
Not many men deserve to be called giants…Dr. Kirkland was one who deserved such a title.

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