What do you get when you cross a bunch of Grover Norquist “no tax” acolytes with a group of political cowards? The Alabama GOP supermajority in the legislature. Unwilling to make any hard choices, they want voters to do it for them on Sept. 18 – in a $3.4 million special election.
What if voters say no and instead expect legislators to, say, do the job they were elected to do? Governor Bentley warns that the world supported by the General Fund budget might come to an end:
Bentley says he will have to cut the General Fund budget across the board if the voters turn down the constitutional amendment Sept. 18. This raises the specter of the state's releasing thousands of state inmates and laying waste to the Medicaid program and other vital services such as mental health and human resources.
And then they'll blame the voters. Or try.
But just imagine an alternate Alabama – one where we invest in our future through education and support our existing businesses instead of spending hundreds of millions to lure new industry. (We'll vote on doing more of that in November).
In that Alabama, we'd recognize the importance of education as a tool to keep kids out of prison. And that Alabama would save money. Instead of kicking the budget can down the road, we'd be packing our nest egg with educated workers who'd be paying taxes. That's a lot better for the budget than spending money to incarcerate them.
A study released last week shows how this works:
Alabama has a deep gap between what the state spends on its pre-K education and what it spends to incarcerate prisoners, today's report says. Alabama spent $17.6 million for pre-K education in 2011, and it spent $605 million to house, feed and guard its criminals.
States, on average, spend nine times more on corrections than on pre-K education, according to the “Pay Now or Pay Much More Later” report. Alabama, in contrast, spends 34 times more on corrections than it does on pre-K education.
“It's common sense,” said Falls. “Kids that otherwise don't have a lot of resources and don't have access to preschool education are often the ones who end up, down the line, faced with crime. … Regardless of your political philosophy, it's important to spend money on education.”
That last comment bears repeating & should be tattooed on the forehead of every state legislator:
Regardless of your political philosophy, it's important to spend money on education.”
It's not just good for the state, it makes financial sense as well. How is it that our “college-educated legislators” can't grasp this simple fact?