Washington can learn from Alabama

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 23, 2011


Our federal government is in the middle of a course-altering debate that will have a lasting impact on the life of every American. If a decision on the debt ceiling is not reached soon, the federal government will default on its debt. But at some point, government has to grow up and live within its means. Hopefully this debate will stir us toward an indelible resolution.

The budget crisis currently brewing in Washington presents a balancing act for conservatives in Congress. Hard-liners who campaigned in 2010 on fiscal restraint are standing firm in their commitment to keep spending under control. Pragmatists within Congress are worried about the long-term effect of debt default and advocate raising the debt ceiling. House Speaker John Boehner has worked long hours in earnest on finding a workable solution to the bleak forecast. President Obama and the Democrats in Congress paint a picture of negotiating in good faith while, in fact, they are refusing to agree to any significant reduction in federal spending and unnecessarily scaring the elderly that their Social Security checks will stop if Democrats don’t get their way. The 2010 election should have been enough proof that the American people want to put an end to the reckless economic policies that got us to this chapter in the first place.

Unlike the federal government, the State of Alabama has passed balanced budgets. In fact, the first Legislation to pass both chambers and be signed into law during the 2011 Regular Session, The Rolling Reserve Budget Act, goes one step further and overhauls the process for planning the State’s Education Budget. This measure recognized that leaders in Alabama could not continue to use the same finger-in-the-air-to-check-the-wind budget model, which resulted in proration in previous budgets, and expect different outcomes. Though difficult, the budgeting decisions that are being made will have a positive effect on the State’s economic outlook.

Alabama has also increased spending transparency by passing the Financial Responsibility Act (HB25), which requires the Finance Director to produce monthly budget reports on the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund. The reports will be made available to the public via the Finance Department website, http://finance.alabama.gov.

The key to stimulating the economy starts with controlling government spending. Alabama’s legislative and executive leadership has recognized that raising taxes is not the key. Our 2012 budget will contain more money than the 2011 budget, but that money must be used more responsibly. As Speaker Mike Hubbard said, “We are funding necessary services and can no longer afford to fund those things that are nice.”

I urge Congress to follow a similar direction as Alabama – balanced, responsible, necessary and transparent budgeting.

I assure you the Senate is firmly committed to working on your behalf. Our business is your business, and your input and concerns are always welcomed. Please feel free to contact my office at 334-242-7900.

Kay Ivey is lieutenant governor of Alabama.