Legislature has tough task ahead

Published 3:31 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Alabama legislators have tough work ahead of them in what is shaping up to be the most difficult session since the Great Depression.

Like many of our current bank account balances, planned state expenditures exceed anticipated revenues, making deep, perhaps painful, expense reductions necessary.

Federal stimulus money headed to our state may fill all or most of the anticipated shortfalls, but our elected officials must take care in spending this manna from heaven.

If one-time federal money is spent on recurring expenses, like salaries and benefits, we will find ourselves in a much deeper hole in the months and years ahead.

By contrast, if anticipated federal dollars are invested in infrastructure and other one-time projects, our state and our county could see a decrease in the long list of much-needed road and bridge projects throughout our state.

Such is little solace to the families across our area and state that face the uncertainty of potential job losses due to state budget cuts, but our legislators must garner the discipline and statesmanship called for in these difficult times. They must make decisions based on the long-term health of our communities and the families that call them home.

This, by any measure, is a difficult and gut-wrenching task.

Beyond the state budget, legislators face other decisions of great import back here in Shelby County as they head back to Montgomery this week.

A few of the more interesting bills still pending in the statehouse include deal with such issues as Bingo, the food sales tax, Sunday alcohol sales and smoke-free public spaces.

Next week, I’ll take a look at those particular hot-button topics and offer my take on each one. Your opinion matters as well — let us know what you think about this legislative session and how Shelby County is affected by these issues.