By Rep. Darrio Melton
Alabama’s voters should be paying close attention to what’s been going on in Montgomery, and what will play out over the next few months. The Governor has called the Legislature back for a Special Session to pass a budget–a task the Republican supermajority was unable to accomplish successfully in the regular session.
They must complete the special session and find a solution by August 11–without a solution the Governor will need to call a second special session or allow the state government to shut down in October.
The Republicans control every step of this process, yet they are unable to find a solution to patch the $300 million budget shortfall.
This isn’t a problem that cropped up overnight, and it isn’t the first time it’s come up. Everyone in Montgomery knew this problem would need to be addressed, yet nobody with any power wanted to show the leadership necessary to solve the problem.
In 2012, the legislature sent voters to the polls to ask them to authorize a loan from one of our state’s savings accounts to cover shortfalls in our state’s budget. They told voters that they would kick elderly patients out of nursing homes and turn prisoners loose on the streets if they weren’t able to use the money, and they promised they would pay it back when the economy bounced back.
Well the economy has bounced back and the loan is due.
Yet now, they want to avoid the problem again and pull money from a different savings account, the education trust fund.
I have said from day one that I will never support a plan that pulls a single dime out of education so Montgomery politicians can avoid hard decisions and protect their re-election. I’m standing by that promise.
You see, the problems we’re facing as a state can be blamed on a lot of people: partisan politicians, influential lobbyists and government bureaucrats among them. But the one group who is not to blame are our children, and they shouldn’t be the ones punished by pulling our investments in their future.
If we want Alabama to bounce back and become a key economic player in our nation, we must provide quality education for our children. This commitment to our future will offer a return on investment in a trained workforce, a higher standard of living, a lower dependency on social services and a shrinking role for our state’s prisons. There’s no magic bullet for public policy, but education is the closest thing we have.
So we can’t sit back and let our current leadership rob our future to pay for our present. We can’t avoid tough decisions today for an easier path, because one day our children will have to answer for the decisions we make as a legislative body. And pulling money from the Education Trust Fund to patch the hole will only leave the children who have to deal with this with fewer tools to solve the problems and no savings to fall back on if they need it.
Don’t listen to the Republican talking points about “fiscal responsibility.” Instead, ask yourself if this would be the responsible decision for your family.
Rep. 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.