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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Simply not enough money to go around

The state's financial condition isn't as bad as a pack of wolves fighting over the carcass of a small antelope, but there are similarities.

Watching the more powerful wolves beat back the remainder of the pack isn't a pretty sight. The bloodbath Republicans and education forces seem hell bent on having would not be either.

In that case, the carcass would be the inadequate amount of money available to run state government properly and to take care of the state's teachers.

Gov. Bob Riley seems determined to break the Alabama Education Association's control of Education Trust Fund earmarked monies, while AEA's Paul Hubbert suggests these two dominant forces pick on, of all people, the poorest of us.

Mr. Hubbert called Medicaid a cancer on the state and wants voters to decide between its multi-million dollar programs and public education. Specifically, he wants a referendum on how much money Alabama taxpayers are willing to spend on this program.

Rolling back Medicaid would free more General Fund revenue to help make up the $250 million gap in next year's proposed budget. That theoretically would relax the governor's campaign to undo restrictions, or earmarking, on education funds.

Medicaid funding, perhaps, is too generous, but holding a referendum isn't the way to know that. Having a statewide vote would be like two wolves pulling on opposite ends of the antelope's carcass for the larger share.

Mr. Hubbert has too much influence over public education in Alabama because of his ability to deliver salaries and benefits to teachers.

Perhaps, it is time for the Legislature to cut a larger antelope from the herd, one that is sufficient to feed the competing forces without taking away from the poorest among us.

That's the way they resolve such issues in the wild.

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