I am somewhat disappointed in the recent FY 2016 budget passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed by Gov. Robert Bentley. Although I am happy that reductions to Medicaid, corrections, mental health, human resources and the state judicial system were averted, there are a number of short-sighted decisions that will adversely affect our well being. In fact, the Alabama Legislature has allocated $83 million (or 4.5 percent) less money than last year and made no real concerted attempt to solve the structural problems of our inadequate tax structure in Alabama.
Many agencies, including the Department of Public Health, will be facing difficult choices on how to serve Alabama residents, as many state agencies will have funding reduced by 5.5 percent as compared to FY 2015. Similarly, the Education Trust Fund has been reduced by $80 million by “raiding” it for tax revenue.
Particularly vexing are the budget reductions to our agencies that monitor and protect environmental issues. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s budget was reduced from $1.2 million to $200,000 and will become much more dependent upon federal funds and permitting fees. The Alabama State Park System will have to transfer $3 million in funding to the General Fund.
In my opinion, our state seems to be setting a disturbing precedent that we tolerate inadequate funding of our state government at the expense of human and natural resources. Necessary investments in people and our environment provide far greater social and spiritual renewal than a focus upon material wealth.
As a society, we seem to be racing toward finding material satisfaction, when in fact there are too few priorities to maintain and sustain our human and natural resources that foster connections to our self, the planet and our spirit. I believe it takes a very balanced society to nurture a child to evolve, develop and serve other fellow citizens of their community. If we continue to underfund and/or de-fund state agencies that protect, regulate and manage Alabama’s human and natural resources, we are going to grow deeper and deeper into a profound “disconnection” from our spiritual selves.
Quite frankly, in my opinion, we have a pestilence growing in our culture that is becoming progressively more dangerous. There is a selfishness, and unwillingness to contribute more from financial “victories” for the betterment of other members of our society.
The trend of many of our wealthiest citizens appears to be a consistent unwillingness to pay higher taxes, and thus greed is creating suboptimal funding of education, health care, environmental management, job training and public safety. If the middle class cannot overcome the fear of economic reprisal from the most wealthy power brokers, our country is going to continue to elect leaders that serve no one other than an economic elite that feels justified to allow benefits to trickle down to the people who serve them.
What happened to the philanthropy of the Rockefellers and Carnegies? These were people who amassed great wealth and felt compelled to share their successes with the people who made them moguls of industry. Fortunately, we still have many dedicated philanthropists; however, in my opinion we have far fewer people who are willing to publicly support adequate funding for our government to serve all of Alabama’s citizens.
Everyone matters, including those who are not the most highly and technically trained. I dream of one Alabama united in promoting advances in educational, socio-spiritual and economic well being for everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, education, philosophy or sexual orientation.
I pray we will envision a state where all God’s children are esteemed, educated and honored. God is “in” every one of us, and our state’s budget must honor everyone in their dreams of advancement and attainment.
Ronald David Hunt
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