Ordering a 15 percent cut in spending from the state general fund budget probably was not one of the more pleasant decisions that Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has made during his time in office. But it was the right decision, and it is in sharp contrast to the reckless spending that continues in our federal government.
The Alabama Constitution forbids the state to have a budget deficit. If it does not have the money to pay for something it wants, it does without. So when it became clear that revenue would not equal expenditures, the governor ordered the 15 percent cut. His predecessor, Gov. Bob Riley, had cut the general fund budget by 10 percent a year earlier.
Will the latest cuts hurt? Undoubtedly. Seventy state Department of Agriculture employees will be laid off, or their jobs will not be filled when they retire. And 150 workers in the state court system will be laid off.
We're sure Bentley takes no delight in those layoffs or in cutting government services to residents of Alabama. But he is acting more responsibly than President Barack Obama or many in Congress who refuse to face up to our nation's $14 trillion-plus national debt.
Republicans at the federal level generally favor spending reductions - though the bigger cuts sought by the more conservative and "tea party" Republicans in Congress are preferable to more limited cuts favored by some in the GOP. And either group's desired reductions are vastly preferable to the nominal cuts favored by Democrats in Congress.
The debt situation is becoming desperate. We are paying hundreds of billions of dollars just in annual interest on the debt - much of which is owed to Communist China. Our single-year deficits are in the $1.5 trillion range. And not only has Congress failed to begin to address the problem of back-breaking entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, but it has actually expanded entitlements through ObamaCare.
Meanwhile, smaller but still extremely costly, ineffective and unconstitutional programs such as agricultural and Amtrak subsidies continue, and the president has embroiled the United States in a new war in Libya, without even making the goals of that war clear.
Alabama, Tennessee and other states that show fiscal responsibility - even when it's hard to do so - should serve as models to Washington.
No, Congress cannot instantly eliminate our national debt, because it must continue to fund the limited functions that the Constitution spells out as federal responsibilities. But that is no excuse to continue unconstitutional spending - or even spending that may be constitutional but that is wasteful or unwise.
The voters of America sent a clear message last November. They rebuked the big-spending ways of the president and Democrats in Congress by giving Republicans strong control of the House of Representatives and sharply reducing the Democrats' majority in the Senate.
Now, members of both parties should heed the voters' wishes and stop offering half measures. There should be serious, sustained cuts, or lawmakers can expect voters to send yet another "message" in the 2012 elections.