MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The proposed constitutional amendment would allow the transfer of more than 145 million dollars over the next three years. Governor Robert Bentley said the money is desperately needed to boost the General Fund which is the major source of state money for numerous agencies, including the health care system.
USA Hospitals Administrator Owen Bailey is hoping the referendum passes.
"There's a lot at stake. Our hospital is two thirds Medicaid, and so we are depending on what happens it could have a huge impact on our hospital. But, it's really broader than just our hospital it's every hospital in the state," Bailey said.
If the referendum fails, Governor Bentley has warned health care agencies, prisons and other non education entities could face severe cuts. However, critics are worried about the prospect of diminishing the states savings, and changing the way Trust Fund money is distributed.
"It's just scare tactics and it should be insulting to the Alabama voters. That was the same kind of language that was used back in 2003 on that Amendment One. If that didn't pass that we were going to have anarchy in the streets and of course it didn't pass, and that didn't happened," Gary Palmer said.
Palmer is president of the Birmingham based Alabama Policy Institute. Palmer said The Institute has not taken a stand for or against the referendum, but he believes lawmakers have other alternatives to deal with the budget shortfall.
"What they're really saying is, ‘We know that state government has gotten too big. We know that that it's gotten inefficient, and wasteful. But we don't want to deal with so we're just going to tap into the Trust Fund and continue to fund state agencies and operations that we know are wasteful and inefficient,'" he said.
For the agencies that depend on state dollars, the threat of possible crippling cutbacks is real, and one they hope to avoid.
"We're already funded at pretty minimum levels anyway nationally compared to the rest of the country. So, if you start talking about cutting further, we'd kind of be heading into un-chartered territory," Bailey said.
The money in the Trust Fund comes from royalties paid by companies that pump natural gas offshore.
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