It’s time to pay the piper

Published 10:51 pm Thursday, February 26, 2015

Any good housewife knows you can only stretch a dollar so far. And you can only live beyond your means for so long before the realities of the budget comes crashing down around you.

In the state of Alabama, we’ve been living beyond our means for several years now, robbing from Peter’s rainy day fund and gas tax revenues to fund Paul and his roadwork and education programs.

Now we’re facing a $400 million-plus shortfall in the general fund budget.

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As that wise housewife would point out, it’s time to the pay the piper. And we don’t have the money.

According to Gov. Robert Bentley, there’s only one solution: raise taxes.

He’s set a press conference today to outline his $700 million tax hike plan, one which he says will cover the state’s general fund shortfall as well as generate the revenues needed to repay the $187 million borrowed from the education fund and the $63 million taken from gas taxes.

Whether or not he’ll find support for the plan is anybody’s guess at this point.

What we do know is that legislators face a mess when they return to Montgomery next week. We’ve long lived beyond our means as a state, shuffling and borrowing on the hopes that the economy would improve and revenues would magically multiply to offset the expenses. We’ve tightened our collective belts – although we all know there’s likely more tightening that could be done at the state level – but still our budget doesn’t balance.

And we need to fix that.

Bentley’s tax plan will be just one of the items offered for consideration when lawmakers return, and Democratic leaders have already begun a call for a statewide lottery as an alternative to the tax increase.

We do, as Gov. Bentley has said, “need the money.”

Unfortunately our state faces a day of reckoning. It won’t be pretty, and won’t be painless, but it’s one we can no longer avoid.