Fall Editorial Board 2016
For Alabamians, the Nov. 8 ballot won’t just include a list of candidates to vote for; it’ll also include a list of 14 amendments to approve or reject.
Out of these 14 amendments, we want to highlight Amendment 2.
If passed, Amendment 2 would prevent the Alabama state legislature from using State Park funds to finance programs other than state parks. Additionally, the amendment would allow non-state entities to operate golf courses, hotels and restaurants on applicable state park property.
Our support for the passage of Amendment 2 is twofold: it would prevent state park closures and it would have positive political implications such as an increase in pressure to make our government budget more carefully and raise more state revenue.
Last year, Alabama legislators sent a budget to Gov. Bentley which would’ve taken money away from our state parks and redistributed it to other poorly-funded government programs.
If that budget were passed, 22 of Alabama’s state parks would’ve been closed.
Thankfully, Gov. Robert Bentley denied the proposal.
But to further ensure our state parks receive adequate funding, we ought to add a constitutional layer of defense that isn’t contingent upon a governor’s wishes.
The passage of Amendment 2 would do just that.
Our state parks provide joy and a place of relaxation for countless Alabamians and an economic livelihood to some communities.
For instance, the mayor of Rogersville claims about 10 percent of his town’s budget is funded by people visiting Joe Wheeler State Park.
Moreover, a University of Alabama study found the economic impact of Alabama’s state parks comes up to about $400 million annually.
Taking away funds from state parks hurts everyday Alabamians and communities across our state.
The political implications of passing Amendment two is the second, and perhaps most important reason for our support.
Simply put, our state government budgets poorly.
Alabama doesn’t raise enough revenue to support its programs and portions of our state budget are routinely sacrificed and traded off to compensate shortfalls in other parts of the budget.
A prominent example of such raiding would be the attempts to take money away from the state’s Education Trust Fund and relocate it to our state’s General Fund.
If this budgetary sleight-of-hand were made unconstitutional, legislators would be pressured to focus more on finding ways to actually raise the needed revenue to run our state.
This could take the form of raising taxes, which time and time again, has been a solution shot down by many of Alabama’s leaders and citizens.
For the legislators, this is partly because if funding for essential services falls short, they can always count on raiding other parts of the budget to relieve the deficit.
For the citizenry, this is partly because people generally don’t like to give up their money, especially if they don’t directly benefit from it.
We believe funding essential services, like Medicare and prisons, should take precedence over funding state parks. However, obstructing our legislators’ ability to rob the state park fund to fund essential services would, paradoxically, help ensure funding for those essential services in the long-run.
If Amendment two passes, Alabama legislators and citizens would be one step closer to confronting and accepting the reality that raising taxes wouldn’t be the end of the world and could help our state maintain some dignity if it resulted in a balanced budget.
If it passes, our state parks would be further insulated from the effect the fear of taxes has on the allocation of state revenue, which would be a win for Alabama.