The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 4, 2014

National study faults Alabama's fiscal planning

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A new study ranks Alabama 44th among the states in long-range budgeting.

The study was released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington. It said Alabama needs to look beyond one-year budgets and consider multi-year revenue forecasts and the costs of programs over several years. The report complimented Alabama for having adequate pension funding, a Legislative Fiscal Office to analyze spending, and a well-designed rainy day fund.

In response to the report, House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said Republicans inherited the budget problems when they took control of the Legislature in 2010, and that's why they have tried to put better policies in place. That includes legislation limiting how much growth they can project in the state education budget from year to year and trimming retirement costs for state employees in future years.

"We're looking ahead and looking down the road, and that's what you have to do," Hubbard said.

The head of the group that lobbies on behalf of Alabama's poor said better long-term planning would help strengthen the state's economy. "People across the political spectrum can agree that adopting tools to help our leaders make good long-term decisions about our state's future is in everyone's best interest," said Kimble Forrister, executive director of the Arise Citizens' Policy Project.

The national study ranked Connecticut as the top state and South Dakota as the worst state. Alabama's four neighboring states ranked ahead of it in the study, with Tennessee finishing third.

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