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Hartselle Enquirer

Rep. Henry speaks to Barkley Bridge class

Kim Jared’s fifth grade gifted students at Barkley Bridge Elementary School are pictured with State Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) after he spoke to them on Jan. 26 about the role he plays in state government. | Clif Knight

Kim Jared’s fifth grade gifted students at Barkley Bridge Elementary School received a firsthand lesson in state government from State Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, on Jan. 29.

Henry spent several minutes questioning the students about the divisions, responsibilities and needs of state government, filling in gaps when answers were not forthcoming.

As a third-year member of the State House of Representatives, Henry told the students he and his fellow lawmakers face a difficult challenge in coming up with enough revenue to balance the state budget in 2013.

To illustrate he asked the students to pick one sport they would prefer to keep if only enough money was available to support one. Some held up hands for baseball, others for basketball and still others for football. Then he asked them if they could put behind their preferences and reach a compromise on just one.

“That’s the predicament we find ourselves in when we don’t have enough money to cover everything,” Henry pointed out.

“How can we balance a budget when we don’t have enough money?” he asked.

“Raise taxes! “ responded one of the students.

“Or cut services,” Henry replied. “But how many of your parents would be in favor of either?”

Henry said lawmakers expect to have about $9 billion for the 2013-2014 fiscal budget. Of that amount, about $6 billion will go to education and the remaining $3 billion will be used to fund other state government operations such as prisons, Medicaid, public safety and transportation.

“Early on we thought we’d have more money for education this year,” Henry stated, “but it got swallowed up.

“Wage earners have less money to spend because of the Affordable Health Care Act, an increase in withholdings for Social Security, high unemployment and declining property values. This means the state will experience a drop in revenue from sales tax, state income tax and ad valorem tax. Plus, the Alabama Retirement System is asking for $180 million to subsidize a downfall in investment income.

“It seems there’s never enough money to go around,” he added “and it falls on us to figure out how to fill the holes and come up with a balanced budget.”

Henry reminded the students that they represent the future of Alabama and the nation and urged them to become an active participant in governmental affairs.

“What happens in your local, state and federal governments affects your future,” he pointed out. “Be informed and exercise your right to vote.”

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