by Rep. Darrio Melton
The Republicans have taken a long, hard look at the state of affairs in Alabama, and they’ve decided they only have two options: they can fold on their campaign promises and raise taxes or they can call the Democrats’ plans and look at a lottery.
It looks like they’re going “all-in” on the lottery and gaming in Alabama, taking consistent revenue streams off the table in favor of a lottery and casino-style gaming in the state.
Now, I’ve never truly been sold on the idea of a lottery for Alabama. I understand that it will generate more revenue for the state for education or to shore up the general fund, but the lottery is generally sustained by people who can’t afford to play the lottery. While casino-style gambling may be a great component of tourism and job creation, what will it do to our local communities that build around that lifestyle?
But regardless of these reservations, nobody forces you to play the lottery or put money in a slot machine–it’s a purely elective revenue measure. And let’s face it, we need revenue.
But the kicker here is that Democrats have been pushing a lottery for years and the Republicans have said “no way.” If you’ve been following the budget story, you’ll know that part of the crisis is a result of borrowing money from the oil and gas funds to balance the budget in past years—if they had been willing to consider a Democrat’s idea five years ago, we might not be in this pinch.
But the Republicans have driven us right to the edge of the cliff and left us with few options. They’ve cut state government down to its bare bones and screamed about its inefficiency while understaffed and underfunded. They’ve pulled every penny out of our education budget for experimental projects when we can’t even adequately fund the schools we already have. They’ve refused to consider expanding Medicaid and accepting the influx of $14.4 billion federal Medicaid dollars (and another $7 billion in hospital reimbursements). I’d talk about our prisons, but that’s an entirely new opinion piece.
My point is this: The Republicans have let the state get into a devastating financial mess because they didn’t want to consider that a Democrat’s idea might be a real solution to a real problem. And now that they’re out of other options, they’re slapping a Republican’s name on the bill and pretending like they thought of it.
Now, when I was in school, putting your name on someone else’s work was considered cheating. But if having a Republican’s name on a Democrat’s bill will get us moving in the right direction, so be it.
This is an example of the lack of partisan cooperation that makes it impossible for Montgomery to function. If one side of the aisle had a monopoly on being right, there would probably only be one side of the aisle.
It’s time for those in charge to quit playing partisan politics and put the best interests of the people of Alabama first. There are good bills coming from my Democratic peers, and they deserve weight and consideration, before it’s too late and without putting a Republican’s name on them.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as the chair of the House Democratic Caucus.