By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford
Most Alabama politicians spent this past campaign season talking about how they were going to “stand up to Obama” and fight back against the federal government. It was ironic, given that President Obama is only going to be President for two more years, while voters were looking to elect candidates who would serve for the next four years, and because the state offices they were running for don’t have any power over federal law or policy.
It wasn’t just legislative candidates who hopped on the bandwagon. Public Service Commissioner Chip Beeker said during his campaign, “I pledge to you that I will do all in my power as a PSC commissioner to protect our state from the overreach of the federal government and the job-killing agenda of the liberal environmentalists who are standing arm-in-arm with Barack Obama.”
Throughout 2014, the point was made clear: Alabama’s political leadership doesn’t like the federal government and wants the federal government to stay out of Alabama.
And that’s why I can’t help but stand in awe while these same politicians who spent months bashing the federal government now come, hat-in-hand, to the federal government begging for more money so they won’t have to raise taxes to adequately fund our state budgets.
It’s interesting that the politicians who screamed the loudest about how terrible the federal government is don’t seem to have any problem using federal dollars to finance state services.
The reality is that our state receives more federal dollars than it pays in taxes.
According to data by the federal government, for every dollar that Alabama pays in federal taxes, the state receives $3.28 back. If state leaders are so concerned with federal overreach, why are they so happily taking such a high return?
Our state’s return on federal taxes, according to a study done by Wallet Hub, is 37 percent. Alabama receives 37 percent of its revenue from the federal government! At a time when we are looking at a very large budget shortfall, why would any state leaders complain about federal overreach when the federal government is keeping our state functioning?
But the irony and hypocrisy doesn’t stop with tax dollars. The same politicians who campaigned on a platform of “standing up to Obama” are the same ones who are now trying to force through President Obama’s education agenda; specifically, charter schools. In fact, just the other week, several state leaders – all Republicans – attended and spoke at a rally in support of charter schools, something that President Obama has endorsed from nearly the beginning and has been a key part of his second term education agenda.
I have always disagreed with the President on charter schools. I think we need to look at other options. And if charter schools work, then why not just apply their methods to existing public schools? Why do we need to create a second taxpayer-funded school system?
But more to the point, why are so many of those who campaigned on “stopping Obama” now rushing to pass the President’s education agenda? Just like with the federal government and federal money, there is a disconnect between what they are saying and what they are doing.
My point is this: Alabama politicians need to quit blaming the federal government for everything that’s wrong while in the next breath begging the federal government for more money to pay for state services. If they actually meant what they say about stopping federal overreach then they would refuse to take any more federal money. Of course they aren’t going to do that.
At the same time, if our political leaders want to “stand up to Obama” then why are they marching in rallies to push through the President’s agenda on education?
In the last campaign, everybody said they were going to “stand up to Obama.” Now we have a massive budget shortfall, and several state agencies that desperately need money to provide services the people of Alabama rely on. How has all of this talk about “standing up to Obama” helped solve our budget problems?
State leaders rely on federal funding to keep our state budgets afloat. They should spend less time bashing President Obama and the federal government, and more time focusing on solving Alabama’s budget problems. Instead of “standing up to Obama” let’s “stand up for Alabama.”###
Rep. Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.