Montgomery’s political cowardice has put us in a tight spot. Pass Tuesday’s constitutional amendment to rob a state trust fund of $437 million or put an even larger strain on the state budget that provides health care for the poorest, operates our criminal justice system and performs countless tasks that every Alabamian depends on.
Many Alabama residents are so disgusted with the failed Republican leadership in the Legislature and governor’s office that they’ve decided to vote “no” on Amendment 1. Lawmakers and Gov. Robert Bentley need to be punished for their budgetary failures, opponents declare.
We are sympathetic, particularly on that part that seeks accountability from the state’s so-called leaders.
Yet, the pain of a “no” vote will be felt first by those Alabamians at the bottom of the ladder, not at the top. Two-thirds of Alabama residents in nursing homes are on Medicaid. Approximately a half-million Alabama children receive Medicaid benefits, including 50 percent of all children in Calhoun County. Hospitals in rural parts of the state depend on Medicaid to keep their doors open.
If Tuesday’s vote fails, Wednesday will begin a season of panic and uncertainty for Alabama residents who need Medicaid. The sick, the poor and the elderly will confront a future even more bleak than their present. An already miserly General Fund budget will come in for one more round of cuts. Montgomery’s top Republicans will once more engage in their version of class warfare, further ripping the state’s frayed social safety net.
Bentley and those in charge of the Legislature have declared raising the shortfall via taxes is off the table. It’s an unthinking position, one we can hope they will soften on should Tuesday’s amendment fail. However, if Bentley and the Republican-led Legislature have succeeded at anything in the past two years, it’s been finding new ways to avoid tough decisions by taking the path of least resistance.
A “yes” vote is not a vote for fiscal sanity. A “yes” vote won’t come close to fixing Alabama’s upside-down method of funding essential government services. A “yes” vote won’t undo the many awful decisions made by the Legislature in the past two sessions.
Yet, a “yes” vote avoids placing more pressure on Alabamians that the New Testament refers to as “the least of these.” Crushing the poorest in our state is never a solution, regardless of the bumblers who put us in this position. Vote “yes” on Amendment 1.