Stimulus seen as manna

Published 12:55 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2009

By Staff
The federal stimulus spending package is manna from heaven for the Alabama Legislature. Alabama, along with every other state, is facing the bleakest and most ominous financial shortfall since the Great Depression. States like California and New York, which do not have constitutional provisions prohibiting deficit spending like we do in Alabama, are facing Armageddon. The Obama/Democratic stimulus bill will rescue legislators from a catastrophic nightmare when trying to craft a budget for the 2010 fiscal year.
Alabama’s share of the federal spending plan will include $1 billion for education, $850 million for Medicaid, $525 million for roads and bridges, $60 million for transit capital grants, $20 million to fight homelessness and $7 million for immunizations. An estimated $3 billion in federal money will be poured into Alabama over the next year. Santa Claus has indeed come to the aid of the Alabama Legislature in the form of one Uncle Sam. The stimulus package should be named the Legislative Relief and Reelection Package. Legislators have been given a lifeboat in a reelection year that appeared bleak if not devastating.
It should be noted that this windfall is one-time money and the legislators and governor who arrive on Goat Hill in January of 2011 will face a monumental dilemma in state government. Another group that will face a dubious future are our children and grandchildren who will have to shoulder the burden of the massive debt incurred by the Obama Democratic spending bill. Ironically, it was very young voters who elected President Obama and they will be the ones saddled with the enormous debt. Let’s just hope that the intent of the package, which was to stimulate the economy, will work.
Senior Senator Richard Shelby has made it clear that he plans to seek a fifth six-year term next year. Shelby, who is 74, says he is running “wide open.” He is finishing his annual tour of every Alabama county and looks fit and trim. His high profile opposition to the Obama/Democratic stimulus package was very popular in the state. Shelby’s popularity is at an all time high and if that is not enough he has a $14 million campaign war chest awaiting any potential challengers.
Senator Jeff Sessions, fresh from a resounding reelection to his third term in 2008, also staked out a strong position in opposition to the federal stimulus spending package. Sessions was poised to move up the seniority ladder on the Senate Budget Committee if Sen. Judd Gregg had taken the Secretary of Commerce post offered by Obama.
Steve Flowers is a political columnist who served 16 years in the State Legislature.

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