#036;500 million surplus should be held over

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 14, 2006

Gov. Bob Riley is awaiting the legislature’s decision after asking Alabama lawmakers to appropriate $500 million in surplus funds to the state’s school systems.

“This $500 million is one-time money, and it will be used wisely and responsibly on these one-time expenses,” Riley said in a released statement last week. “There are tremendous needs in every school system in Alabama. We should direct this one-time appropriation to address those needs without raising taxes, incurring debt or spending it on recurring expenses.”

Undoubtedly, Alabama’s schools – especially our own school system – would benefit greatly should the legislature approve Riley’s request.

Alabama’s rural roadways would benefit

from a $500 million appropriation. Between 1999 and 2003, accidents on rural, non-interstate highways in Alabama resulted in 3,166 deaths. That’s out of 5,164 total fatalities during the same time period, according to the Federal Highway Administration. While alcohol, bad weather and other undesirable circumstances likely had an impact on the number of fatalities, the actual condition of the roadway may have contributed to its fair share of deaths. And with travel along rural roads increasing each year, the safety of Alabama’s inter-county roadways should be an area of chief concern.

But would $500 million from the state even begin to address an issue as large as this one?

Our choice would be to hold the $500 million and allow it to grow and build interest, thereby assuring that the money would be available in the future.

A surplus this year, does not necessarily mean a surplus next year.