What’s really busting our budget?

Published 5:42 pm Monday, March 21, 2016

Last week, a bill came through the Legislature that I thought had to be a mistake.

Republican leadership was attempting to change the requirements for hardship assistance so that you can no longer qualify for short-term assistance programs if you have “assets.”

And by “assets,” they mean frivolous luxuries like a car.

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Because in a state like Alabama, where public transportation is unhelpful at its best and non-existent at its worst, people surely don’t need cars.

Without reliable transportation, people should have no trouble making it safely and presentably to a big job interview to eliminate their need for hardship assistance, right?

It should be a piece of cake to get the kids to and from school on time to ensure their education doesn’t suffer despite a financial hiccup, right?

This legislation is just another example showing that lawmakers aren’t seeking to provide a hand up; they’re putting their boot in the face of working class men and women and pulling the rungs from the very ladder working families are trying to climb.

Not just in this bill, but in regressive tax increases, education cuts, and Medicaid troubles, it’s clear the Republican super majority is out of touch with working families.

But if it could be made more clear: last week, a story broke that Gov. Robert Bentley had provided more than $70,000 raises to several of his key staffers. Not $70,000 in total raises — $70,000 per employee.

For working families, that’s two year’s worth of paychecks — as a raise on top of the nearly six-figure checks many are already making.

And they’re expecting us to believe that working families on food stamps getting $100 per month are going to be the downfall of our state’s budget.

I’m calling baloney. It’s time to put the public back into public service and get the government back doing what it’s intended to do. While we may not always agree on what that is, I think Alabama families will agree our tax dollars aren’t intended for $70,000 raises.

Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as chair of the House Democratic Caucus.