Thursday, December 31, 2015

Darrio Melton: We can't keep cutting our way out of a budget crisis

  As we're moving into the New Year, Alabama legislators are--once again--focused on old problems that have only been placated by patchwork solutions: namely, our state budget. The 2016 legislative session is right around the corner, and the Republican leadership is wasting no time saying how this session is going to be exactly like the last one.

  Remember the last one? The Republican supermajority's in-fighting sent us into two special sessions, spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars before we finally passed a make-shift budget.

  The Republican leadership is already saying they're going to make more budget cuts rather than consider responsible, balanced solutions. I'm wondering what could possibly be left to cut.

  When families sit down to make their household budget or when they need to tighten the belt and cut back due to a job loss or major expense, families know this much: there's only so much you can cut. You can downsize to a smaller house, but you have to have four walls and a roof.  You can cut the grocery budget, but the kids still need three square meals a day. You can cut back in a lot of areas, but you can't just cut them out completely if you expect a family to function.

  But that's exactly what the Republican supermajority has done in Alabama. They've cut textbooks out from under children's noses and still expect our teachers to teach. They've cut driver's license offices out of rural areas and still expect voters to produce photo identification to vote. They've cut our court systems, prison programs, and mental health services and still expect business as usual. Its ridiculous!

  We're at the limit of what we can cut and still survive as a functional government. Our schools are drowning at the bottom of the barrel in terms of national rankings. Our driver's license office closings have prompted a federal investigation. Our court systems are clogged, on the verge of being deemed unconstitutional. Our prisons are on the verge of a federal takeover, and our mental health services are non-existent. Can you imagine what more cuts would do?

  We must demand more from "conservative" leadership.

  Because just like in our families, leadership is about what's best for the whole family. It's about making decisions for long-term solvency, not just short-term solutions.

  Budgeting for the state is no different. We need smart, solvent solutions that work for all Alabamians. And that certainly doesn't mean more budget cuts.

  About the author: 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:

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