14 Cost-Cutting Ideas
for Alabama Government

by J. Elbert Peters

Shown below are fourteen cost cutting suggestions for the State of Alabama that I put together before Christmas.

I realize some of these suggestions will be difficult to implement, because it is difficult to take back what has been given. Also, the Democrat-controlled Legislature obviously likes state spending the way it is now.

Unfortunately, the overly-generous Alabama Legislature caused the financial problems we have in Alabama. A friend told me that "there is no end to the good that do-gooders can do with other people's money." There are a lot of do-gooders in the Alabama Legislature and they have used our money to do good to elected officials and public employees.

I solicit your comments on any of these suggestions that are of interest to you.

If you would like to add to this list, please send me your suggestion.

1. Cut the current pay of all Alabama judges by at least 20% and reduce their retirement benefits by significantly increasing the number of years they must serve in order to obtain their current level of benefits. Retirement benefits should be comparable to that of major industries in Alabama.

2. Reduce the number of engineering and medical schools in Alabama. I have been told that Georgia has one engineering school and Florida has one medical school. Alabama has several of each.

3. Reduce the number of junior colleges in Alabama and eliminate the duplication of curricula in adjacent areas of the state.

4. Cut the Attorney General's salary back to the level it was when he ran for reelection in 2002.

5. Transfer the essential functions of the Examiner of Public Accounts to the State Auditor and eliminate the Examiner of Public Accounts.

6. Cut the salaries of Greg Pappas (House Clerk) and McDowell Lee (Senate Secretary) to a more reasonable amount. The salaries they now receive are about $135,000 and $165,000, repectively. I did know their exact salaries a couple of years ago and they were somewhere in this range. [Ed. note: McDowell Lee is said to be the highest paid state official, but I guess that doesn't include school administrators. Some of the ones at UA are making over $200,000 a year. DVB ].

7. Reduce the number of regular state holidays (about 15) and special days-off approved by the governor (3 or 4) to the number of holidays (about 10) available to employees of the major industries of Alabama.

8. Increase the number of years of service required for state employees to obtain full retirement benefits to 35 years and the minimum retirement age to 62.

9. Negotiate at least a 10% reduction in the rent paid to Retirement Systems of Alabama for the hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space in the RSA-owned buildings in Montgomery. Conduct a complete inventory of the space rented from Retirement Systems of Alabama and do not pay for space that is not needed.

10. Obtain a Medicaid waiver that will allow medicaid-eligble disabled persons (especially elderly) to be cared for at home or in an assisted-living facility, rather than a much more expensive nursing home. (This shifting away from nursing homes is required by the U.S. Supreme Court's Olmstead decision, but Olmstead has not been implemented in Alabama.) The cost to the state for assisted-living facility care would be less than half the cost of nursing home care.

11. Reduce the salary of the State Superintendent of Education and other overpaid education administrators throughout the state to a more reasonable amount.

12. Charge a hefty out-of-state tuition to all non-residents of Alabama and do not allow these students to acquire state residency after they have been attending school in Alabama for a few months.

13. Use state prisoners to construct additional prison space at the sites of current Alabama prisons. All prisons except Tutwiler just north of Montgomery have sufficient vacant land on which to construct additional prison space.

14. Perform a detailed review of every state agency to identify inefficient and duplicate activities.

On January 19th I sent a message that listed Fourteen Cost Cutting Suggestions for the State of Alabama.

I received many responses that covered a wide range of comments.

Shown below is a sampling of them. I apologize for not including all of the responses. Some of the comments were lengthy and others were in a format that made them difficult to use in this message. I also apologize for not responding individually to everyone who responded to me.

I have deleted any information from these responses that might identify the author.

  • Require teachers and state employees, currently employed and retired, to contribute more $'s for health insurance. In the many years I worked in the health care industry, our employees were required to contribute from 25% to 40% of the monthly premium for health insurance. I know many corporations and the federal government require a far greater contribution from employees and retirees than is required from teachers and State employees.

  • Don't fill the State Superintendent of Education position; let one of Dr. Richardson's assistants fill the role with no increase in salary.

  • A Constitutional Amendment that requires that no State salary can be higher than the per capita income or the citizens of the State. This would get the Politicians off their duff to improve the income of the average Joe. It would be a powerful incentive for them to attract more better paying jobs here.

  • Revise the laws that requires an attorney to probate a will. This would save the citizens millions of dollars each year.

  • Revise the laws that requires an attorney to close all loans when property is purchased. Most charge 1% of the amount of the loan. This would save millions more for the citizens.

  • How about duplicate or quadruplicate school superintendents in Marshall County? How many school superintendents does it take to run a relatively small county? Seems to me that one good super and four good secretaries could do the job for about 1/3 of the cost.

  • Cut out the double dipping of the Legislators who work for the State.

  • By all means get rid of the state-run liquor stores. Folmer says we are in long-term contracts for the buildings, but we can turn them over to the private sector who should be selling liquor.

  • Make State employees pay a reasonable amount of their health-insurance cost.

  • How about eliminating the hundreds of "supernumerary" judges, sheriffs, district attorneys, and other elected officials who are not eligible for the retirement system but collect full or nearly full pay year after year for doing nothing. And many of these after only serving a few years - no where near the 35 years you suggest for full retirement. It would be interesting to know just how many of these positions there are.

  • Put the State on a zero base budget where each function must justify their present labor level and expense as well as the necessity of the work they perform for the general population. This should eliminate all automatic budget increases. Do this each year and all results could be reviewed by an independent panel. Industry has used this system for over 200 years and it works.

  • Make the state employees and educators benefits equal to the average industry around the Southeast. Especially the Medical and retirement benefits. Their salary is already higher for the same work content.

  • Term limits of two terms a lifetime, retroactive to ratification by a vote of the people. That way we could throw the rascals out, and put people in office who have the people's best interest at heart instead of their special interest group.

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