As a result, Alabamians might see small rural hospitals and nursing homes closed.
Previously, Gov. Robert Bentley has predicted that if more money is not put into the state prison system, “thousands of state inmates” would be released to wreak havoc on law-abiding citizens.
Thus, Alabama voters will have the opportunity to vote Sept. 18 on one more amendment to the bloated state Constitution. This amendment would allow money to be transferred from the Alabama Trust Fund to the General Fund. Once in the General Fund, that money can go to Medicaid or prisons or anywhere else legislators want to put it.
If the amendment does not pass, Williams told the committee, the Medicaid program will be heading toward an “uncontrolled train wreck.”
Pretty strong words. Alabamians should take note.
However, Alabamians should also note another thing Williams said. Even “if the amendment passes, it’s a controlled train wreck.” In other words, even with this infusion of cash spread out over the next few years, the programs will still be underfunded and just one economic downturn away from again facing what they are facing now.
The solution is more money consistently collected, which is something only sweeping tax reform can accomplish.
But whenever someone is bold enough to suggest that course of action, opponents point to Gov. Bob Riley’s failed attempt at tax reform his first year in office. What those citing that historical precedent overlook is that Riley’s Amendment 1 was not rejected because it was a bad plan. Voters rejected it because it was demagogued to death by special-interest groups that preyed on people’s fears instead of their hopes.
The state missed that opportunity. While it is not the only reason for Alabama’s current situation, that failure not only contributed to the state’s present fiscal problems, but it also hangs heavy on the minds of those who should be looking for a way to prevent such problems in the future.
If legislators are serious about tax reform, taking another look at the best parts of Amendment 1 would be a good place to start. The fact that few seem willing to do this makes tax reform all the more unlikely and the reccurrence of the problems we are facing now all but inevitable.