The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

August 26, 2012

Lawmakers get blame for referendum

Associated Press

The Anniston Star on the Sept. 18 Trust Fund vote:

Despite passing ethics reforms and pork-trimming legislation, Alabama’s current lawmakers could go down in history as members of the state’s worst Legislature — a distinction for which there are many claimants, but which these men and women are poised to deserve.

What will likely earn them the title is the way they have maneuvered the people they are supposed to represent into making what appears a Hobson’s Choice.

Hobson was a 17th-century English livery stable owner who told his customers that they were free to hire any horse they wanted so long as it was the one in the first stall. In other words, a choice that is no choice other than “take it or leave it.”

That is what Alabamians are being told to do on Sept. 18 when we go to the polls — take money from the Alabama Trust Fund, a state savings account set up to do things other than plug a hole in the General Fund budget. The other choice is to leave the hole this Legislature, through its callous disregard for the welfare of people who need government services, allowed to happen.

Without this money, a host of state agencies would be drastically cut and nearly 3,000 men and women would lose their jobs. And there is Medicaid.

If the constitutional amendment does not pass, many Alabamians on Medicaid will not be able to afford health insurance. ... Statewide, two-thirds of the people in nursing homes use the program. Without Medicaid funds, many rural hospitals will close.

This is what legislators and Gov. Robert Bentley presented to their constituents — raid the Trust Fund or cut back on services. Now it is voters’ decision, not theirs, and whatever the outcome, it will appear to be voters’ fault, not theirs. ...

Does the Legislature have a Plan B, something to fall back on if the amendment does not pass? If legislative leaders do, they aren’t saying. Let the people think all the eggs are in this basket and vote their consciences or their fears. ...

No matter what we decide, no good can come of it.

However, one thing is certain: The blame will be theirs, not ours.