RISE TO THE MOMENT OF TRUTH   |   Tuesday, May 17, 2022
RISE TO THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Justin Bogie: Senators, please don’t “Do it Again”

Justin Bogie |

“Oops! I did it again.”

Most anyone living over the past two decades probably recognizes the lyric from the Britney Spears song of the same name.

In the case of the Alabama Legislature and Governor Kay Ivey, they are looking to do it again -  but there is no “oops” or accident about it. They are intentionally trying to enact record spending and expand government, and you the taxpayer will be the one paying for it.

When the current class of legislators was elected in 2018 some pundits predicted that it would be one of the most, if not the most, conservative legislatures in Alabama history. But that has not been the case. From 2019 through the Governor’s 2023 proposed budgets, cumulative state spending, i.e., the size of government, would grow by almost 27 percent. If citizens don’t demand change the legislature will do nothing to stop that trend this year.

Remember, the state has also received more than $4 billion through federal COVID-19 related stimulus legislation, with another $4.5 billion in federal aid going towards education. That’s on top of the Governor’s proposed 27 percent growth.

Wednesday the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee is set to debate the fiscal year 2023 general fund budget. And just like each of the previous three budgets of the current legislative quadrennium, it’s another record-breaker. Under Chairman Greg Albritton’s (R-Atmore) proposal the general fund would spend $2.645 billion in 2023, up 6.5 percent from last year’s then-record budget.

To Albritton’s credit, it could have been slightly worse. Governor Ivey’s general fund proposal was about $73 million higher.

The general fund budget proposal would spend $161 million more than last year. Some readers may think, what’s another $161 million on top of the $2.5 billion being spent this year? My question to them would be, is that what you expected when you voted for your current legislator? Is that the fiscal conservatism that most Alabamians claim to stand for? My guess is that most people would answer no.

And it isn’t just about the money. Those dollars, though, translate into bigger government. That means more taxes from your wallet to pay for expanded government, more regulation over your small business, and more government intervention in your everyday life. The unprecedented growth of government over the past four years must stop.

The Alabama Policy Institute feels this issue is so important that it has identified both the general fund and education trust fund budgets as key votes for its 2022 legislative scorecard, the API Watchlist. Any budget proposing to increase spending levels above the current fiscal year 2022 budgets will be a no vote.

The state Senate proposing a 6.5 percent general fund increase next year is particularly interesting given recent comments from Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed (R-Jasper).

On Monday, Reed published a guest opinion column through Alabama Political Reporter expounding the fiscal conservative policies exhibited by the legislature over the past several years.

Mr. Reed highlighted the fact that the state’s two once-depleted Rainy Day funds have been repaid over the last 12 years. And that is a good thing. But what is the state doing with the extra $1.5 billion in revenue it took from your pocket last year? Legislators have offered up less than $200 million in targeted tax cuts this session. The rest will be used to spend more and eliminate all or most of the current surplus. They should be using that money to take less from you.  

Shouldn’t you have the ability to build your own savings account?

Reed went on to say that Alabama is “on firm fiscal footing again.” But with the state enacting record budgets every year, how long can that last? History tells us that there will be another recession in the future. Rainy Day funds can help but would likely be unable to weather a sustained economic downturn. That’s why it’s so important to halt government spending growth now, so the state is better prepared for that next rainy day.

Finally, Reed wrote that Alabamians “are not looking to the government to solve all their problems. They just want government to stay out of their way.” And I think he’s exactly right.

But the general fund budget being considered by the Senate this week represents a 29 percent expansion of government in four years. How is that fiscally conservative or staying out of the way?

The message to Alabama Senators this week should be, please don’t “do it again.” Alabamians do not want more government in their lives.

Justin Bogie serves as Senior Director of Fiscal Policy at the Alabama Policy Institute. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to: Commentary@1819News.com.