Thursday, December 31, 2009

Another year down the hole

The recession made for a tough year all around, and things were no different in Alabama in 2009.

Unemployment soared quickly in our state this year, rising above the national rate for the first time in years. Partly as a result, Alabama had far too little money for its education and General Fund agencies, forcing funding cuts for schools, courts, and other public services. And next year may be worse unless the liberal federal government decides to spend more for big-government boondoggles like keeping teachers employed and paying for doctors to treat poor patients.

Taxes remained a reflexive four-letter word in many corners of the state. Alabama still taxes poor people heavily despite all of the much-ballyhooed claims of having the nation's lowest taxes. A bill to end the state grocery tax while protecting education funding went down without even getting an official hearing. And Gov. Bob Riley and other GOP lawmakers cited fears of a hypothetical future tax increase to scuttle plans to accept free federal money for the state's unemployment insurance fund.

Jefferson County presented some special cases this year. The county backed away from the very edge of the financial abyss this year, but the legal challenges are far from over. Meanwhile, Birmingham's mayor pledged repeatedly during his campaign to do something, but problems arose when a federal jury found him guilty of dozens of counts of doing something... illegal.

Election-year news saturation began well before the actual election year. Artur Davis emerged as the likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee, but a contentious primary still lies ahead. Bradley Byrne became the early favorite in a much more crowded Republican gubernatorial field, but the possibility of ousted former Chief Justice Roy Moore seizing the GOP nod for governor remains. And U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith decided to add actually being a Republican to his congressional track record of voting like one -- just in time to face primary challenges from people who nonetheless find him insufficiently conservative.

To summarize: Thank God for Mark Ingram and Alabama football. Roll Tide, and happy 2010.

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