Now It's Time For Some Real Reform!
by D.V. Bowden
Bob Riley and his cohorts talked about "tax reform," but all they really wanted to do was raise taxes. Now that the Riley plan has been been utterly crushed at the polls, it's time to start talking about REAL reform. Not just tax reform, but institutional reforms that will take the power out of the hands of the politicians and give it back to the people.
I fully expect Riley & Co. to go to "Plan B" and start pushing "constitutional reform" next year. Like "tax reform," this is their code word for removing limits on government and increasing taxes and regulation. That's not the kind of reform I'm advocating here. We can hardly hope to get a better constitution in the current political environment. Better to stick with the current one and fix the problems with amendments. (One of the best things for the state constitution would be to repeal all the current 700+ amendments and start from scratch with the original document).
There are a number of reforms that can be implemented that would drastically curtail the power of the politicians in Montgomery, and go a long way towards restoring liberty to the citizens of Alabama. Here are just a few ideas:
- Initiative, referendum, and recall
Let citizens enact the reforms that the legislature won't! The hard part is that this has to be passed by the legislature first. They will fight it tooth and nail because it would drastically curtail their power. Recall power is needed to throw out bums like Riley who become turncoats. So what if the California recall is a circus? The politicians need to be reminded that they work for us!
- Taxpayer Bill of Rights
This is being done in Tennessee. The TBOR requires that any tax increase be apporved by taxpayers in a referendum before it can take effect. This would be a powerful limitation on taxes. Better yet would be a complete prohibition on tax increases to starve the beast.
- Zero-Based Budgeting
Riley promised this during the campaign, but never delivered. It means that programs start with a budget of zero each year and are appropriated funds based on their actual needs, rather than simply taking last year's budget and getting an automatic increase--that's why spending has increased 40% over the last 6 years and busted the budget.
- Spending Caps
This is how Colorado got the spending problem under control. Their constitution limits how much the state can spend. Increases over the previous year are only allowed to take into account inflation and population growth. Better yet would be to freeze state spending at the current level and let inflation slowly erode it to practically nothing--that might be a good way to transition to a stateless society.
- Sunset Laws
Laws pile up year after year, decade after decade, century after century. How many laws do we really need? A lot fewer than we have, I'd say. Laws are easy to pass, hard to get rid of. We need to trim the deadwood. A sunset law added to the constitution would automatically repeal any statute after it has been on the books for a certain period of time. Good ones can be re-enacted, bad ones left to die.
- Prohibit Local Legislation
The 1901 constitution originally did prohibit local legislation, which was one of it's virtues. Unfortunately, this limitation has been removed by one of the many amendments. Laws should be simple and uniform, not specific to a particular county or city.
- End Double-Dipping in the Legislature
Dozens of legislators hold jobs in other state agencies (mainly schools or colleges), or their spouses do. This is a blatant conflict of interest for a legislator. No member of the legislature should be allowed to hold a seat while otherwise employed by the state.
- Term-limit the Legislature
Term limits aren't the solution to everything, but at least they'd get rid of "lifers" like Roger Bedford, Hank Sanders, and Larry Dixon. Each of these parasites have been there for DECADES, taxing and spending, world without end, AMEN.
- Eliminate AEA paycheck deduction for teachers
Currently, the state supports the AEA by collecting its dues for it from the paychecks of teachers. This is a tremendous subsidy and advantage for the AEA. Teachers should have to cut a separate check to the AEA if they want to be members, just like any other organisation. Getting rid of the AEA dues deduction is the first step in curbing Paul Hubbert's power.
- Prohibit lobbying by state-funded agencies and schools
During the Riley tax campaign, state employees and teachers shamelessly promoted the tax DURING THE TIME THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING THEIR JOBS. No state-funded agency or school employee should take ANY stance for or against any ballot measure, partisan or not, while they are on the job.
- Salary Reform
Government salaries are out of control. In addition, there seems to be no logical hierarchy or uniformity the pay scale for public employees. One would expect the governor, as the state's highest official, to receive the highest pay. Not even close. The governor makes about $101,000 a year. The secretary of the senate, McDowell Lee, makes over $200,000. University of Alabama Provost Judy Bonner recently received a raise from $176,000 to $200,000 (I guess she couldn't scrape by on 176K).
Legislators, whose actual "pay" is constitutionally-limited to $10 a day during the legislative session, have voted themselves an "expense allowance" which amounts to over $30,000 a year for a part-time job--that's more than the average Alabamian makes for working full-time.
Per capita income in Alabama is $24,589. The median income Alabama is $35,160. (Source here). It is obscene for government officials to be making nearly ten times that much. Government salaries must be brought into line and limited. A salary heirarchy should be established, with the governor and other state-wide officials at the top, and various grades below them. Certainly no university officials like Bonner should be making $200,000. The maximum salary of ANY state employee should be limited to three times the salary of the average Alabamian. This will keep salaries from getting out of line, as well as giving our officials financial incentives for enacting free-market reforms that will act to raise the income of the average citizen.
To make the legislators happy, let's pay them each $50,000 a year and deduct $1000 for every law they pass--it's a win-win situation!