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GEORGE C. WALLACE, Governor
MCDOWELL LEE, Secretary of the Senate
MESSAGE OF GOVERNOR GEORGE C. WALLACE
TO JOINT SESSION OF THE ALABAMA LEGISLATURE
AT REGULAR SESSION MAY 5, 1976
LT. GOVERNOR BEASLEY, SPEAKER McCORQUODALE:
MEMBERS OF THE ALABAMA LEGISLATURE:
I appreciate this opportunity to speak to you this evening concerning my recommendations for this Session
The appropriation process for the fiscal year which began October 1, 1976, was a traumatic experience. The appropriation process for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 1976, will also be a challenge in that there will be less revenue available to appropriate than there was this year. This is true in both the General Fund and the Special Education Trust Fund.
Since last November, I have urged the various departments of the Executive Branch and our educational institutions to make every effort possible to reduce expenditures and to increase their efficiency. I have suggested specific ways by which expenditures may be curbed. The Legislature appropriated approximately $191,000,000, excluding Revenue Sharing, to fund the General Government for the current fiscal year. We anticipated an actual expenditure of $185,000,000, which is $6,000,000 less than was appropriated. To my knowledge, this is unprecedented. The General Fund appropriation bill I am submitting to you tonight contains appropriations, exclusive of Revenue Sharing, in the amount of $180.8 million dollars. This represents a reduction of 2.25% in the actual appropriations from the current fiscal year.
One area where I am recommending increased appropriations is to the Board of Corrections. There are a number of things which need to be done to improve the operations of the Board of Corrections and these must be done in addition to increasing the appropriations to that Department. There are certain funds now available from the bond issue and Revenue Sharing that I have allocated which can be used for immediate needs.
I am proposing legislation which will transfer the responsibility for the operation of the prisons of this State to the Governor. There has been a great deal said in recent weeks about the operation of the prison system. The fact is that the Board of Corrections is made up of fine people who do the best they can in one meeting a month to operate the prisons, and I want to thank them for their efforts; however, they are limited in what they can do because they are professional and
business people who simply cannot devote their full time to this problem.
The Governor is not a member of the Board of Corrections and does not even meet as ex officio chairman of the Board; yet the Governor, whoever he might be, is the highest constitutional officer in the State and should have the authority to run the prison system. The Governor and the Legislature get blamed when the prisons do not function properly and, as far as the Governor is concerned, I think that whoever is Governor should have the authority to operate the prisons if he has to take the final responsibility.
I propose in this legislation that the person who operates the prisons be appointed by and be responsible to the Governor of the State, just as other important State Departments are operated. The Board of Corrections under this proposal will serve in an advisory capacity.
I have stated publicly on numerous occasions that I do not believe in providing a hotel-like atmosphere at the expense of the taxpayers of this State for the convicted criminals. I am much more concerned about the constitutional rights of the victims — those who are raped, robbed, assaulted, and placed in the cemetery than I am the hardened criminal who commits these acts against society. Less than ten years ago, we built what was considered a modern and adequate prison facility near Atmore and also the Receiving and Classification Center at Mt. Meigs. Because of the permissive case law rendered by the courts, these facilities are now crowded and no longer considered adequate for the prison population.
For these and other reasons, I have caused an appeal to be taken from the recent decision of the U. S. District Court. I am hopeful that the appeal will be successful. Yet, I realize as you do that we must make plans now to enlarge our prison facilities. I am, therefore, proposing constitutional amendments to increase the rate of the income tax on individuals and corporations with the revenues of this increase to be unearmarked so that the proceeds can be used for the prison system immediately and, at a later time, for education or the General Fund. This proposal will allow the people of the State to say whether or not they are willing to pay additional income tax in order to provide for prisons.
Another area where there is a continuing need is the State Highway Department. Too many of our citizens are being killed and maimed because of the unsafe highway conditions existing in this State. The Highway budget for maintenance and for State construction has been totally inadequate for some time. I am recommending that you transfer $10,000,000 from the General Fund to the State Highway Department and that
you allocate $17,000,000 in Revenue Sharing Funds to that Department. Unfortunately, there is only a slight growth in revenues earmarked to the Department and, quite frankly, my recommended budget is not adequate for the Department to do all that needs to be done, but is made to you in light of existing revenues.
While I recognize that the overwhelming majority of those who provide medicaid services operate in a legal manner and operate within the law and in an ethical manner, yet there is some question in my mind and in your minds about abuses in the many aspects of providing medicaid services. I feel there should be no abuses and the State of Alabama has begun a program of investigation and review of possible abuses in medicaid services. In order to assist in this effort, I have placed in my recommended budget an appropriation of $75,000 for special investigations of possible abuses in the medicaid program.
We have made a great breakthrough in the field of mental health and we must continue the fine program we have in this State. Alabama has a nationally recognized program of mental health care and it is one area which should be a source of pride to all citizens. During the last legislative session, the Legislature recognized that there were legitimate education functions carried on by the Department of Mental Health. The Legislature reached a solution as to needed funds for the Mental Health Department by transferring the sum of $19,000,000 from the Special Education Trust Fund to the Department of Mental Health. This year I am recommending that the sum of $18,000,000 be transferred from the Special Education Trust Fund to that Department and that amount, together with other revenues, will provide approximately the same revenues received this year.
I have recommended reductions in a number of State agencies this year. This was required because of limited revenues ner in which the departments acted to economize and reduce expenditures wherever possible. I am pleased to report to you that of the recommendations made by the Governor's Cost Control Survey Team as to the Executive Branch, 57.8% have been implemented and 17.5% are in the process of being implemented. This is an outstanding accomplishment. We have prepared and are in the process of implementing a master plan for data processing consolidation. This plan is well underway and is expected to save the State millions of dollars in future years. We are also well underway with the “Zero" based budget. This should enable us to eliminate inefficient and unneeded programs.
In an effort to increase efficiency and to improve coordination in the Executive Branch, I have appointed the Governor's Committee to Study Reorganization of State Govern