by Rep. Darrio Melton
When we started this legislative session, the budget crisis loomed heavy over the State House. We all knew that we would need to fill a $700 million gap, but nobody knew how it would get done.
In the past months, several solutions have been tossed around among those in leadership. We could cut the budget across the board, but how do we expect state agencies to function with no resources? We could raise taxes, but would we raise them for corporations or for working families? We could legalize a state lottery and gambling, but how do we set the parameters? We could expand Medicaid, accept federal funding and reduce the burden on our own budgets, but how do we do that and still fight Obama?
The truth is that there are strengths and drawbacks to every plan. There’s no silver bullet and there’s no plan that makes everyone happy. That’s where leadership comes in. Well, that’s where leadership should come in.
Instead, we’ve seen House Republicans in leadership take hard-line stances on their budget priorities–they have refused to work with the Governor, refused to work with Senate Republicans, and of course, refused to work with Democrats.
Why would they? House Republican leadership must know best.
But now, the House is poised to vote on a general fund budget that cuts the state budget across the board, regardless of the governor’s plans to veto it. Their budget will seriously threaten state agencies and services for the constituents they claim to represent, but it’s their plan and they’re sticking to it.
If the governor keeps his promise and vetoes the budget, we’re headed into a special session–another legislative session that will cost the state additional money for one reason: failure to compromise.
If our only choices are drastically cut budget or go to a special session, I’ll be back in Montgomery to work this thing out. But I would have much rather been able to use our time wisely to work together and find solutions, rather than taking strict, no-compromise positions on the budget.
The fact of the matter is that the Republicans are in charge. We can only vote on the bills the Republicans allow out of committee, and they won’t let Democrats’ bills come up for a vote. So we have to look to them when we talk about leadership, because there is nothing the Democrats can do to move the marker or offer our own plans into the process.
But in 136 years of Democratic leadership, when we did get to offer our own plans, we never allowed the government to shut down over bickering in our own Party.
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.