Siegelman should put facts

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 17, 1999

on table, not propaganda

Gov. Don Siegelman has issued a statement saying that children will go homeless, convicted prisoners will be unleashed on society and the elderly will go hungry if the state can’t find a swift resolution to the franchise-tax problem.

The situation stems from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that stated that Alabama’s franchise tax on out-of-state businesses was unconstitutional.

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This means that the state will see a $120 million shortfall when the bills are paid.

According to Siegelman, these funds must be replaced or "5,000 children will lose daycare. Thirty thousand children will lose health insurance. Foster children will become wards of the state because we won’t have the money to pay foster parents. Federal courts will close at least three of Alabama’s prisons because we won’t have the money to pay prison guards. Eight juvenile boot camps will close. Four of our mental health facilities will close and at least 3,000 more state employees will have to be let go. Thousands of seniors around the state will lose their nursing home beds, and millions of meals to seniors will end."

The governor goes on to say that the numbers recite to, "30,000 children, 170,000 seniors, hundreds of thousands of Alabama families horribly and terribly impacted."

Let’s be realistic. Taking kids away from their families, turning prisoners loose on society and starving aging people are not the only alternatives to the shortfall of cash.

These are worst-case scenarios used by the governor to make a shocking and dramatic appeal to the public for the state to approve his plan that will likely add more services to government, raise taxes on hard working people and send students to college at the expense of taxpayers.

When the only way to reduce the expense of $120 million is to turn criminals loose, starve children and the elderly and watch those suffering from mental disabilities unravel without help, we have indeed allowed government to bite off much more than it can chew.

Siegelman is a master of propaganda and of politics. His smooth image and modern charm make him an ideal governor when it comes to smashing the image of Alabama’s governors who operated in the "Good Ole Boy" network.

But his ideas, his concept of the responsibilities of government and his perpetual use of negative images to provoke emotional support are not signs of good leadership.

We agree with him that the problem should be addressed, but we think it should be done with an interest in the facts, not in propaganda. The governor is a better politician than that. If his proposal is the best way to go, then we want him to sell it to us on its merits, not on an exaggerated concept of what will happen if it is not approved by our legislature.

No doubt, the stakes are high for the governor. Failure to resolve the problem will lead to his political death, and following the loss of the lottery vote, he is already struggling to hold his ground.

We hope he can help work out what will be a severe problem, but we want him to do it with an eye to the facts and not to propaganda.

Nov. 16, 1999, 11 PM