MORE ON AMENDMENT 1
Journalists and opinion writers are still sifting through the successful Amendment 1 vote last month in Alabama. You remember, the one that lifted $437 million from a state trust fund just to keep the lights on in state government.
The yes vote arrived just in time for the start of the state’s 2013 fiscal, which begins today. The Mobile Press-Register’s George Talbot called it, 'The $437 million hustle.' He writes:
"Let’s call it the Karl Rove – James Carville Political Slickum Trophy. The inaugural winners? Gov. Robert Bentley, House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Senate President Del Marsh, who pulled off a political hustle as sharp as anything outside of a Chicago pool hall.
"The Republican leaders were in a jam, and got Democratic voters to bail them out. Impossible, you say?The numbers don’t lie. The amendment, which allows the state to tap into the Alabama Trust Fund to pay for government operating expenses, won by big margins in Democratic precincts, and was soundly rejected in the state’s more conservative corners.
Former Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter Tom Baxter saw it differently. Writing in the Saporta Report, Baxter noted that Bentley, “this conservative Republican governor was calling on the voters to approve a bailout.” He adds:
"When Bentley compared his plan to taking money out of savings to cover a shortfall in the family checking account, a Democratic opponent, Rep. Joe Hubbard, responded that it was 'more akin to dipping into your 401K each month for the next three years to pay your mortgage note without first looking for a smaller house or a better paying job.'
"Deep down, most of the voters who approved the measure last week probably know this comparison is about right. But they couldn’t stomach the deep cuts that would have been triggered by the rejection of the measure. In the great national debate over entitlements, this is where the rock is beginning to come in contact with the hard place. Alabama is about as safe a Romney state as there is, but this vote serves as a sort of ironic commentary on the national debate over the social safety net fueled by Romney’s '47 percent' remark."
MEET THE CANDIDATES
A forum for Anniston City Council runoff candidates is 6 p.m. Thursday at the Carver Community Center.
Ward 4 candidates Millie Harris and Marcus Dunn and Ward 2 candidates David Reddick and Sheffton Goodson are expected to attend. The forum is sponsored by The Star and supported by Women Empowered and The Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce.
Goodson will join us for a live-chat Wednesday at noon and Dunn will be answering your live-chat questions online on Thursday at noon.
"I wouldn’t start panicking." - Alabama state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, speaking to the Montgomery Advertiser on presidential candidate Mitt Romney recent weak polling numbers.
NOT VERY GOOD COMPANY
A New York Times article on Idaho's struggle to reform its public schools includes this disappointing reference to school funding in the Yellowhammer State:
"In a mostly rural state where the recession was particularly brutal in construction and manufacturing, lawmakers carved some of the deepest cuts in school spending in the nation. Per-pupil outlays fell 19 percent between the 2008 and 2013 fiscal years — only Arizona, Alabama and Oklahomacut more — according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a policy research group focused on low- and moderate-income families." (Emphasis ours.)
MORE HB56 CONSEQUENCES
Bloomberg-Businessweek offers an update on the latest consequences of the state's anti-immigration law:
"Esene Manga an Eritrean refugee living in Atlanta, hadn’t heard of Albertville, Alabama until a recruiter offered him a job there. Now Manga, 22, earns $10.85 an hour cutting chicken breasts on a poultry-plant night shift, an unexpected beneficiary of a year-old law designed to drive out illegal Hispanic immigrants.
"This isn’t what the law’s backers said would happen. Republican state Senator Scott Beason, a sponsor, said at a news conference last year that the restrictions on undocumented workers would 'put thousands of native Alabamians back in the work force.'
"Instead, it caused a labor shortage that resulted in the importation of hundreds of legal African and Haitian refugees, and Puerto Ricans, according to interviews with workers, advocacy organizations and businesses."
NOT SO SMART
In a new Governing magazine article by Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene titled, 'What Killed Alabama’s Performance Measurement Plan?' the authors take note of a stepping away of strategic planning when it comes to writing Alabama’s General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets:
"Awhile back, we uncorked some journalistic champagne bottles and toasted a step forward for the state of Alabama. In 2004, it embarked on its first real statewide foray into performance measurement. The program was dubbed SMART. The acronym stood for Specific results, Measurable key goals, Accountable to stakeholders, Responsive to customers and, finally, Transparent to everyone. As we wrote in the February 2005 issue of Governing, 'This is the first significant effort ever launched in Alabama to encourage strategic planning or performance budgeting.'
"Less than a decade later, we see that SMART, like a number of other similar programs in the states, has fallen on hard times. As of October 2011, agencies were no longer required to submit SMART budget request forms. For agencies, there didn’t seem to be much to connect the initiative to budgeting results. Agencies 'did all the paperwork and reporting, but no one actually saw their amount of money change,' says Gail Traylor, director of the state’s audit division.
"The removal of the budget request forms effectively unties the state’s efforts to develop and meet goals from the budgeting side of the equation. Most nonbudgetary elements of SMART, however, are being retained."
There’s a whole lot more to this article. It’s worth a close read.