By Rep. Darrio Melton
If you’ve turned on a TV lately, you might have caught Senator Richard Shelby’s latest TV ads, the ones of him driving a Ford Explorer through the Alabama country roads and talking about how he fights Obama in Washington every day. Sound familiar?
Senator Shelby isn’t the only Alabama politician who prioritizes fighting President Obama, and the sentiment is echoed loudly and frequently throughout the State Legislature. The sentiment also creates problems when it comes to fixing our budget woes and putting Alabama back on track for a successful future.
Take for example our funding crisis. Republicans are now looking at a state lottery and even full-fledged gaming to bring new revenue into our state. They’re hoping you’ll overlook the fact that Democrats have been bringing lottery bills for the past seven years. They’re hoping you won’t notice that their “fiscally Conservative” plans are just to rehash ideas Democrats have championed, probably since the polls show that a majority of Alabamians are ready to bring a lottery to Alabama.
The Alabama Republicans hope you won’t notice that they’re leaning left on the lottery, as long as they keep sticking it to Obama, who–by the way–won’t be President this time next year.
By opting out of “Obamacare” and rejecting billions in Medicaid expansion dollars, we are putting our rural hospitals at risk and blocking care for 600,000 Alabamians. The impact reaches to all areas of our healthcare sector, even those families with private insurance policies.
It makes no sense. The logic completely escapes me as to how the GOP can embrace the Democrats’ ideas on one hand while completely rejecting another simply because it’s the Democrats’ idea.
Oh yeah, Obama hasn’t come out in support of an Alabama lottery.
Both of these solutions–Medicaid expansion and an education lottery, can help to shore up our budgets and put Alabama back on track for growth and expansion. Yet the partisan optics are allowing the Republicans to explore one option while completely rejecting another, simply because they want to be able to say they’re “fighting Obama” when primary season rolls back around.
Let me be clear: neither party has a monopoly on good ideas, but it’s our job as leaders to look at the options on the table and do what’s best for the people we represent. We weren’t elected to block out ideas and shut down debate to protect our credentials for our next election–we were elected to do a job for the people of Alabama for the term we’ve already earned.
If we expect to dig Alabama out of this budget hole, we can’t pick and choose which ideas we embrace based on poll numbers and partisan bickering. After all, this is the last legislative session our friends in the GOP can “fight Obama” before it’s time to come up with real reasons why they can’t consider good policies like expanding Medicaid.
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.