By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford
In a special legislative session where their options were to either raise taxes, cut services or raid education, the Republicans in the Alabama Legislature somehow managed to do all three and still not solve the long-term problems in the budget.
What’s also very telling are the taxes they chose to raise. Every one of their tax increases are taxes on people trying to live paycheck-to-paycheck. They voted to raise taxes on cigarettes, car titles and car rentals, nursing home beds and medications! They even proposed a five-cent tax on gasoline, because the Republicans in Montgomery apparently don’t think you pay enough for gas.
What all of these taxes have in common is that they are taxes on you; taxes on people trying to live paycheck-to-paycheck. They didn’t raise a single tax on out-of-state corporations (many of which pay little, if any, state income taxes), or close any corporate tax loopholes.
It’s a mind-boggling that the Republicans in the Alabama Legislature continue to vote for taxes and refuse to let the people of Alabama vote on a lottery! I have offered a lottery bill every year for the past six years, but the Republicans refuse to let the bill come up for a vote, and last week the committee chairman told me that he would not let any lottery bill be voted on this year.
I will never understand why the Republicans want to raise taxes but refuse to consider letting the people of Alabama vote on a lottery!
Now with all these taxes, you would think the Republicans would have solved the budget crisis and avoided the drastic cuts. But that isn’t the case.
Even with all these taxes, the Republicans are still making deep budget cuts across the board, except for Medicaid and prisons. And on top of that, the Republicans are transferring $80 million away from public education to make up the difference. And just to rub salt in your wounds, the Republican senators then went back and added in millions of dollars in new pork-spending projects while they cut money from critical government services.
The even bigger tragedy is that these new taxes and budget cuts do not solve the long-term problems in the budget. All of these taxes and cuts will only get the state through the next fiscal year. But the costs of state government are only going to continue to grow as the costs of healthcare and other expenses increase each year. When the legislature returns to Montgomery in five months, we will be right back here debating more taxes, budget cuts and other gimmicks to get through another year.
Additionally, the state has almost $700 million in debt, most of which was created in 2012 when the Republicans borrowed $437 million to delay this very crisis for the past three years. That money has to be paid back, and the Republican Tax Package and budget plan does not address that problem at all!
The state’s budget has an illness. But the Republicans in Montgomery are treating the symptoms, not the disease. We cannot continue to use a Band-Aid approach to solve the state’s budget crises, or punish the taxpayers by raising your taxes, cutting critical government services, robbing money from your children’s education, then turning around and adding in wasteful, pork-barrel spending projects for legislators while still not solving the long-term problems in the budget.
Rep. Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.