The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Letters to the Editor

September 17, 2012

Letters to the Editor 9/16/12

Letters policy

The News Courier encourages letters to the editor. Submissions should be no more than 400 words and should include a name, address and telephone number for verification. Submissions that do not meet requirements are subject to editing. Send letters by noon on Thursdays to P.O. Box 670, Athens, AL, 35613, or email to kelly@athensnews-courier.com.

Don’t mess with Oil Trust Fund

Dear Editor:

Years ago, when Alabama started collecting royalties from offshore oil drilling operations, some of our wise leaders established the Oil Trust Fund. This Fund was intended to endure in perpetuity, since the intention was to spend only the interest earned, leaving the principle intact.

The Fund accumulated principle for years, as royalties were paid in, but then our political “leaders” could stand it no longer. They figured out a way to dip into this money source by developing a special Rainy Day Fund, which we voters approved in 2008. Thereby, they could borrow against the Oil Trust Fund, with certain limitations, including a requirement that this money had to be repaid within 10 years.

However, as of two years ago, the maximum amount has been borrowed from the Trust Fund, unless the state budget level increases, or the borrowed money is paid back. With the present economic slowdown, this will probably not happen soon. Rainy days are for real economic apocalypses, when dry toast is on everyone's menu, not merely when politicians fail to resolve budgetary issues.

Rainy days are not when our politicians just want to kick the can a little further down the road. So, what are they asking us to do on this coming Tuesday, with the special election? Basically, it is to eliminate restraints so that they can further erode away the Oil Trust Fund principle by the amount of nearly half a billion dollars over the next three years.

There is additional wording in this amendment under consideration, for more eroding processes in future years, about which even our legislators are confused. There seems to be little hope of being able to pay back the currently borrowed money real soon. Royalties and interest earnings are decreasing, so we certainly shouldn't be borrowing more. Furthermore, there is no provision in this proposal to repay the Fund, so future allocations to Athens will be reduced.

We simply need to have a state budget that calls for less spending now. Political propaganda can be powerfully persuasive, slanting perspective against the truth. Don't be fooled by those who want to spend your remaining Trust Fund dollars for their programs.

We elected individuals that we thought we could trust to guide our state effectively, but when we realize we have made a mistake, we don't want to make it worse. On Tuesday, just say no.

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