By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford
There were a lot of surprises that came out of last week’s primary elections. One thing that was not a surprise: all the ads and mail pieces about Barack Obama.
It only makes sense. Republican legislators don’t want to talk about their own record. They want to make every election a referendum on Obama’s presidency.
I don’t blame them. What record do they have to run on? For the past four years, our state policies have been nothing but failures.
On jobs we are actually going backwards. Alabama is the ONLY state in the entire country to see our unemployment rate increase over the past year. Today, Alabama is 49th in the country for job creation. For nearly every job we create, we also lose a job. Last year, we had 11 straight months of job losses.
Anyone can put “Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.” on a campaign sign. But where are the jobs?
And what about education? For four years our public schools and educators have been under constant assault. From pay and benefit cuts for educators, to school budget cuts and growing class sizes, our schools are struggling to do more with less.
State leader’s signature legislation—the Accountability Act—has done nothing but make things worse. The Accountability Act takes a minimum of $25 million out of our schools every year, taking $40 million out the first year.
Supporters claim the Accountability Act gives kids a choice in where they go to school. However, fewer than half as many kids transferred schools under the Accountability Act than did the year before it was passed. At the same time, only 52 kids in the entire state transferred to a private school, which was the whole point of the $25 million annual budget cuts.
If the goal was to give kids a choice, then the Accountability Act has been a spectacular failure.
In 2010, Republican legislators campaigned on a platform of cleaning up the corruption in Montgomery. Instead, they have fully embraced the culture of corruption. In less than one term in control, there has been the formation of a grand jury, one conviction and another indictment.
From backroom deals and secret meetings used to force through the Accountability Act to the pay-to-play schemes that have padded legislators pockets (often at the expense of the taxpayers), rather than ending the corruption, state legislators have fully embraced it.
Sadly, after four years it seems the only thing that has changed is who is getting the pay off. That’s why so many politicians are campaigning against Barack Obama: because voters are upset with what is going on in Washington, and the leadership in Montgomery has to keep voters anger on Washington instead of Montgomery.
But, even Gov. Bentley said last week that Republican legislators can’t do anything about Obama. If they could, why haven’t they already?
Republicans have had a Supermajority in Montgomery for four years. They can do whatever they want. If Democrats didn’t even show up, Republicans still have the numbers to legally pass whatever legislation they want. So if this is about Obama then what have they been doing for the past four years?
It’s because Obama is just a distraction. Like a magician, politicians want to distract voters so they won’t see what is really going on—instead of smoke and mirrors, state legislators are using Barack Obama.
Every one of us should be offended that our state leaders think we aren’t any smarter than that.
It’s up to all of us to hold them accountable for the last four years. Our state leaders have a record of abusing their power and betraying our trust: a record of non-stop assaults on our schools and a complete failure to create the jobs that were promised.
Don’t let the politicians change the subject.
It’s not about Obama. It’s about Alabama.
Rep. Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.