‘Alabama’s doctor’ prescribes bitter pill

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gov. Robert Bentley sounded like the physician he is Tuesday night, delivering a diagnosis we already knew but didn’t want to hear.

“My fellow Alabamians, the hard truth is this,” he said. “For two long, we have avoided the inevitable and it has caught up with us.”

He was referring, of course, to the decisions he and his team have made about budget cuts only weeks into his administration.

Earlier this week, he declared 3 percent education proration and announced he’ll declare 15 percent in the General Fund.

The 2012 budgets he’s about to send across the street to the legislature – which he describes as conservative and realistic – call for educators and other state employees to contribute more to their health insurance and retirement pensions. And given all the items he promised to keep in the education budget, we suspect the costs to employees will be significant.

The cuts to the General Fund will be far more painful, he said, adding that he’s cut 217 line items out of the budget. Some agencies that continue to be funded will be cut by as much as 45 percent.

Gov. Bentley is right. With 9 percent unemployment in Alabama and a revenue structure that relies mostly on income and sales taxes, we can no longer avoid the inevitable. Voters sent a message in November that they wanted change, and they are about to get it.

Painful? Yes.

But until we are willing to revisit that revenue structure and base it on property values rather than sales taxes, this bitter medicine is ours to swallow.