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GOV. WILLIAM D. JELKS.
To The Members of the Senate and House:
The Constitution directs that the “Governor shall, from time to time, give to the Legislature information of the state of the government, and recommend for its consideration such measures as he may deem expedient," and he shall give "information of the condition of the State.” In accordance with that provision of the Constitution I am laying before you herewith matters which it seems particularly proper should be brought to your attention, and, as well, in some cases recommending such action as I think should be taken.
Seven years ago the State was appropriating as pensions for old soldiers about $115,000.00 a year. For each of the past two years the disbursement for this went nearly to the half million dollar mark. This money was divided between about 15,000 pensioners. The law provides as follows:
“That any resident citizen of this State on the first day of January, 1899, and who is a resident citizen at the time of filing his application, who while in the military cr naval service of this State, or the Confederate States, lost a leg or arm, or the use thereof, or who from wounds received while in such service, or who from sickness or old age, or who is blind, or deranged or unable at the time to make a living by physical labor, by reason of his permanent disability, and who did not desert the service of the Confederate States or the State of Alabama, and who does not own property to the value of
four hunlied dollars, and who has no children
Many of the 15,000 on the rolls come under none of the classes named in the law. They are really not entitled to pensions under a strict enforcement of the law.
I see that a proposition has been made to change the law so as to allow a service pension. I doubt if so much fraud would be practiced under the law so changed as has been or is now practiced. With the law so changed it would be indeed, possible to make proof that a party was a soldier when in fact he was not, but there could not be so many opportunities for fraud as now.
The Legislature can do one of two things: 1st. Change the law so as to provide for a traveling pension examiner, who will spend his entire time carefully looking into the proof of the applicants, and who will be uninfluenced by local surroundings. In that event the needy and the indigent soldier could have, very properly, from the State Treasury a sufficient yearly sum to provide absolutely for the necessaries of life.
2nd. Change the law so as to provide a service pension. With any sum the State can now appropriate under the best possible circumstances this new proposition would certainly not increase the amount of individual pensions, which for the last two years have been
$30, $40, $50, and $60 for the several classes. The service pension, you would find, would decrease these amounts with any possible appropriation the Treasury could stand.
Four years ago a bill came to me providing for an appropriation of $100,000.00 additional to the one mill tax, for each of four years. I offered an amendment, as I had a right to do, under the law, reducing the amount to $50,000.00 each of four years, providing, however, that this sum would be increased to $150,000.00 for each of the last two years, if it appeared to the Gov'ernor that the Treasury could stand the additional amount. This amendment was accepted and the bill became a law. The veterans got the $400,000.00 originally provided in the four years. I authorized the Auditor to draw his warrant in October, 1905, and again in October, 1906, for the additional hundred thousand.
My apprehension of a possible treasury balance then grew out of the reduction by one mill of the State tax, which reduction amounted yearly to about $350.000.00. It will be recalled, too, that at that particular time the income from the convict department under the departure I caused to be made, was not a certain amount. The vast increase from this source which has come to the treasury since that time, was then in the future. My fears, ? think, were not unreasonble.
In conclusion of this subject, you will allow me, with as much emphasis as I can command, to say that no needy or indigent old soldier ought to suffer for any of the necessaries of life as long as the State can prevent it.
You provided four years ago for a home for old soldiers, which home was largely donated by that great lover of old soldiers, Jefferson M. Falkner, and is knowii as the “Falkner Home." You appropriated $120.00 a year for each inmate. Under the act I appointed the following trustees of the Home:
State at Large: J. M. Falkner, W. D. Westcott and C. L. Ruth; and the following, one from each Congressional District: A. C. Danner, J. B. Stanley, S. T. Frazer, H. C. Reynolds, W. A. Handley, A. Y. Glover, L. B. Stone, Sam'l. Blackwell and W. C. Ward. They are all clever business men. I think you will not find a wiser or more efficient body of men on any board than these.
The appropriation has been found to be entirely insufficient to care for it at all. There are nearly seventy people in the Home and the appropriation is $10.00 for each per month. A competent Commandant, with an assistant or two, cooks, helpers and nurses, particularly nurses, take in wages one half of the appropriation. You will consider of course that nearly every one of these old men if not absolutely, is partially helpless and needs much attention. There is hardly $5.00 a month for each, to feed and clothe them. The Board has found it impossible to get along on the allowance and they have gotten behind. The members above named signed with me a noto for $2,750.00, which I will ask you to provide for. This money had to be borrowed, the old veterans starved, or the Home closed. If you should decide to keep it open further you will necessarily be compelled to greatly increase the per capita appropriation. It certainly ought not to be run as a poor house.
OUR ASSESSMENT LAWS.
Real and personal property, when aggregated, does not bear taxes on 30 per cent of its real value. Personal property escapes almost entirely unless it is in shares in a corporation. It is almost unrepresented in the tax returns. Real property in many counties is not itself given in for an amount above one-third of its value, and there are counties where 20 per cent. on real estate is considered a most liberal estimate. Every effort has been put forth by the Auditor to get personal property on the list and to have real property assessed at a reasonable per cent. of its value. The Back Tax Commissioner's office has been constantly in touch with the Allditor in this fight for a proper showing with what, I consider, a pitiful result. The assessment for the year