By Rep. Darrio Melton
When we return to Montgomery this March, one of the biggest issues we will have to face is patching a projected gap in the general fund budget. The Governor has projected that the state will fall between $250 million and $700 million short of fulfilling our financial obligations–that’s about 13 percent to as much as 38 percent of the state’s 2014 budget.
These are big numbers, but we can put them into perspective: if the average household’s budget were to fall 13 percent short, that would be about as much as most families spend on food. A 38 percent budget shortfall would be equivalent to as much as the average family spends on housing, including a mortgage or rent and utilities. Imagine having to double either of these items in your family’s personal budget–that’s the issue facing Alabama.
This is a big problem, and it could leave Alabama in a terrible financial situation moving forward.
Fortunately, the Republican supermajority campaigned on strong leadership and fiscal responsibility, so I’m confident they’ll put leading Alabama over political rhetoric.
There are many ways we can work to close this budget shortfall without balancing the cuts on the back of our hardest working Alabamians.
For example, Representative Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) has proposed a bill to enter into a compact with the Poarch Creek Indians. This would raise additional, elective revenue without increasing taxes on working families.
We can also look at closing certain corporate tax loopholes that mostly benefit out-of-state corporations and don’t make business better for Alabama companies. Closing these loopholes could generate as much as $60 million in new revenue.
We can also make sure that the incentives we offer to businesses actually work to create jobs and make our communities better. Last year, House Democrats introduced the “Job Creation and Taxpayer Protection Act,” which would require businesses receiving incentives to commit to create a certain number of jobs and maintain those jobs in Alabama for five years. If the business failed to uphold their end of the deal, they would have to pay back the taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, this bill was never even considered by the Republican supermajority.
Now, Republicans across the state are saying they’re willing to consider these options to save Alabama’s budget. I’m glad to see they’re coming to center to work together.
This legislative session will be an opportunity to see if the Republicans are serious about finding solutions to balancing Alabama’s budget in a responsible way, or if they’re only concerned about lining their own pockets and playing dress-up at the State House.
Leadership means collaborating and finding a solution that works, not posturing and politicking while people need answers.
Alabama will only work when we all work together. It’s not about Party, it’s about doing right by the people we represent and creating the best and brightest future for Alabama.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010. He currently serves as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.