Then, wonder of wonders, the General Fund ended the fiscal year with a $3 million surplus, which may not be a surprise considering how much was cut from agency budgets when the fiscal year began. This money went into a “conditional” account, and from it Gov. Bentley took $2 million and gave it to the court system.
The result is something akin to a good news, bad news, more bad news situation.
The good news is that the chief justice has, as the governor said in a letter to Moore, a little something extra to “assist you in funding some additional needs.” The bad news is that, according to the chief justice, the conditional fund appropriation is not enough to restore all services that have been cut or to prevent layoffs.
Then came more bad news. Despite the chief justice’s warning, the governor does not hold out hope for additional funds coming available. He also advised Moore that “further requests for FY2014 supplemental funding be directed to the Legislature.” Though the governor promised to support such a request, that was as far as he was willing to go.
It is unfortunate that the state lacks a system of raising revenue that would allow it to adequately fund its agencies, though there is a painful irony here. In his earlier campaigns for public office, Chief Justice Moore bemoaned what he considered the wasteful spending in Montgomery and vowed to see that the departments and branches of state government live within their means. Sadly, he is getting a personal lesson in the consequence of living within one’s means when the means are inadequate for the task at hand.
Perhaps now the chief justice will support the sort of tax reform that would generate the revenue the court system and other state agencies need to operate effectively. Sadly, he probably won’t.