By Rep. Darrio Melton
The Alabama Legislature has been in session for two weeks now, and the Republican supermajority has wasted no time showing that they have a double standard for Alabama’s working families.
At the State of the State address, Governor Bentley talked about Golden Dragon and all of the jobs they would bring to Alabama. Bentley neglected to mention that they are providing this company with millions in incentives with no guarantee they will create the 300 jobs they claim they will create. ThyssenKrupp received a billion dollars in incentives and left the state after less than three years.
I know well the Black Belt needs an economic boost- we need jobs and we need opportunities to succeed, but I also know how precious our tax dollars are and that they should be used appropriately. That’s why I’m cosponsoring Representative Greg Burdine’s bill to do just that–HB311 would require companies to pay back the incentives they are provided if they do not hold up their end of the bargain.
Meanwhile, Senator Bryan Taylor has proposed a bill to require individuals on public assistance at any level to complete a required amount of community service work to receive their benefits and Senator Trip Pittman has proposed a bill to require drug testing for public assistance recipients, even though a similar law was struck down in Florida.
Senator Taylor’s bill exempts those who are disabled, but does not take into account the single parents working two jobs who still can’t make ends meet. It doesn’t take into account that some of these folks are retired service men and women, who have done a lifetime’s worth of community service when they enlisted to protect our rights and freedoms. And it doesn’t take into account that abuse of the system is far less than the Republicans want you to believe.
The issue with this should be clear- we are going to ask single parents and veterans to pick up trash on the side of the road and report for drug tests like prisoners to receive meager benefits, but we’re perfectly willing to give away billions to companies who may or may not uphold their end of the bargain.
They want to show poor people the value of hard work, as if being poor is a direct result of not trying hard enough, but they feel no need to extend this lesson to the companies who take billions in tax dollars with no guarantee that they will do the work they promised they would do.
From the legislature’s assault on the working poor to Governor Bentley’s refusal to expand Medicaid and provide healthcare to 600,000 Alabamians who fall into the coverage gap, it’s clear that the Republican Supermajority is out of touch with what it means to be a working family in Alabama.
I know their hearts are in the right places- I know they want to help the people of Alabama get ahead. But it’s time for them to realize that we will not balance the state’s budget on the backs of our hard working families. We will not get ahead as long as we hamstring the parents and veterans who make this state great. And we will not succeed if we continue to put politics over the people we swore we would represent.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010.