The most compelling argument against the constitutional amendment up for vote Tuesday is that a “no” vote would serve our elected officials right.
Voting down the amendment would hurt plenty of people, but not politicians.
The amendment would balance the state’s General Fund budget by transferring $437.4 million from the Alabama Trust Fund, which consists mainly of natural-gas royalties. It will not increase taxes.
The fiscal 2013 shortfall was a slow-motion train wreck that everyone saw coming. Legislators had at least two years to prepare for it, either by increasing revenue through taxes or by decreasing expenses through consolidation and cuts. Instead of showing the political courage needed to balance the budget, they have spent much of the last two years pushing expensive social legislation.
So the premise of the argument against the amendment — that our elected officials have let us down — is accurate.
The conclusion — that we should punish them by voting down the amendment — does not follow.
Our elected officials will get paid whether the amendment passes or not. The victims of their poor planning will be Alabama citizens. Hourly employees will lose jobs, Medicaid recipients jolted by the economy — especially seniors and the disabled — will lose benefits, and economic-development efforts will falter. The likelihood of federal intervention in the prison system will increase.
There will be a time to punish those elected officials who lost sight of the entirely foreseeable budgetary shortfall. That time is not on Tuesday. It is, rather, when they ask us to return them to office.