By House Minority Leader Craig Ford
As Republicans like to point out, for 136 years, Alabama voters continued to re-elect Democrats to represent them in Montgomery. During those 136, Alabama’s taxes were among the lowest in the nation, yet we still balanced the budget every year without gutting our schools, or the state’s Medicaid program. Even in the Great Depression and the economic stagnation of the 1970s, Alabama Democrats kept state taxes low without taking a steak knife to our schools or healthcare system.
The current Republican leadership in the Alabama legislature cannot say the same.
The Republicans campaigned in 2010 on two things: That Democrats had been in control for too long, and that Republicans were ready to provide the leadership Alabama needs.
The voters of Alabama put their trust in the Republicans and gave them total control of the state’s government. Republicans in the Alabama legislature now have what is called a supermajority, meaning they hold more than sixty percent of all seats in the state House and Senate. The Republican control is so absolute that if Democrats in the legislature did not show up, Republicans could still legally convene and conduct business.
The Republicans wanted to lead, and the voters trusted them to do just that. But the Republican leadership has failed to provide the leadership the people of Alabama need and deserve.
In less than two years, the Republicans have chosen to raid the Alabama Trust Fund and make devastating cuts to our schools, public safety, and public health. Instead of making the tough decisions on Alabama’s Medicaid program, the Republicans instead chose to pass the buck to the voters of Alabama.
Alabama’s Medicaid program relies on Federal matching money to function. For every dollar we spend on Medicaid, the Federal Government matches it with another two dollars. But to receive that money, the state is required to provide certain services to Medicaid patients. The budget passed by the Republican supermajority does not provide enough money to provide those services, meaning Alabama will lose that matching money and Medicaid would collapse unless voters approve a constitutional amendment to allow the state to raid the Alabama Trust Fund.
So not only did the Republicans pass a budget that relies on raiding the state’s savings account, they passed the responsibility of making that choice on to the voters. They put you, the voter, in a position where you have to decide if we are going to raid the state’s savings account or if we are going to let the state’s Medicaid program – which provides 70 percent of payments to nursing homes, 60 percent of payments to pediatricians, and 30 percent of payments to family practitioners – collapse.
When Democrats controlled the legislature, we kept Alabama’s taxes among the lowest in the nation, balanced the state budgets, and did so without making devastating cuts to our schools, public safety, or public health. Our decisions may not have always been the right ones or the popular ones, but we led and made the tough decisions. But less than two years after taking control, Republicans in the Alabama legislature are making devastating cuts to our schools, they are raising the Alabama Trust Fund, and they are passing the buck to the voters.