By Senator Shay Shelnutt, guest editorial
As the 2016 session of the Alabama Legislature begins, I want to give you a short preview of the issues that are likely to be at the forefront of debate.
The General Fund again will be the most pressing issue. The challenge is the costs of certain programs like Medicaid and Corrections are out-growing the tax receipts to support them. During last month’s budget hearings almost every agency pleaded for more money in order to provide their services – I know you are shocked by that!
There will be calls in some quarters to raise taxes but I will continue to stand against broad-based tax increases on the people of Alabama and explore every option to reform state agencies and find savings in the General Fund.
Since the people of Alabama elected a wave of conservative Republicans to the Legislature in 2010, fiscal discipline has been the primary goal of the Legislature. This fiscal discipline has helped us avoid proration and shore up the emergency funds for our K-12 and higher education systems. Thankfully, I think we can therefore afford a well-deserved pay raise for teachers in this year’s Education Trust Fund budget. Our teachers are key to building the foundation of a bright and prosperous future for Alabama and I remain committed to supporting our educators in every way possible.
Other issues I am sure we will be discussing:
* Protecting our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
* A Constitutional Amendment to allow a statewide vote on a lottery.
* Reform of state employee pensions – this past year alone, the Legislature appropriated over $900 million of taxpayer dollars to prop up the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA). Reform is needed to keep RSA’s pensions solvent for future generations.
I was at a luncheon the other day and heard the expression, ‘defend and amend.’ The more I thought about that expression, the more I liked it and have decided that my strategy for this session will be to defend your rights and dollars and amend all the bad legislation that will be brought up.
Shay Shelnutt represents District 17 in the Alabama Senate, which is comprised of all or parts of Blount, Jefferson, St. Clair, and Talladega counties. Follow him on Twitter for the latest legislative news: @shelnutt417.