Last night, Governor Robert Bentley delivered his fourth State of the State Address. And the speech was mostly about promoting job growth in Alabama and slamming people who receives handouts from the Federal Government. The speech felted like, in my opinion, as a person who is unconcerned of the people who live in Alabama. Who cares about poor people, our environment, and the Federal Government. Yep, the speech was like he made Alabamians sound like a bunch of secessionists.
Let’s start with the fact that Alabama is creating jobs. What jobs! Alabama was the second worst state for job creation in 2013, behind Alaska. Bentley said the state of Alabama had an increase of nearly 60,000 jobs. Which parts of the state are seeing those jobs, because I am not seeing them in East Alabama. And where are those 40,000 future jobs going to go?
As I don’t need to remind people, East Alabama is one of the poorest and worst job regions in America! According to the Milken Institute and the list of 179 small metro areas, the Anniston / Oxford area is the second worst performing small metro area in America for 2013. Along with the articles that ranked the Talladega / Sylacauga area as the 5th poorest region in America and Gadsden as the 4th poorest city in America. Plus, with the major problems in Alexander City, East Alabama is in really deep trouble. The governor touted new job creations in places in Alabama like Mobile, Birmingham, Huntsville, Auburn, and the Blackbelt. But he either forgot or skipped over East Alabama. People here are struggling and more jobs are being lost which forces more people to move away. Where’s the help Governor Bentley?
And then the governor slammed people who are getting handouts like food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, and other government programs. He said:
Okay, people would not have to receive handouts if the jobs were there. Some people have to rely on handouts because either the economy has crashed, like here in East Alabama, or the person’s job does not provide enough pay and has to use food stamps to make up the difference. Yes, the governor did say people Alabama likes to help people in need, and I am glad he said that.
But the churches and charities are stretched to the limit because so many people need help. People can not rely on low-paying jobs to get by, they can’t. I wish the Alabama Legislature would have the guts to raise the minimum wage. Guess what, if the minimum wage was raised, people would have the opportunity to get off handouts! But instead, we have companies telling their employees to get on food stamps to get by which costs the taxpayers money. Get the idea. Want to lower the amount of people receiving handouts, then help people, not harm them!
Then Governor Bentley talked about something that could harm the environment of Alabama forever. Who cares about clean air and clean drinking water? Companies must squeeze every last drop of natural resource away so they can make lots of money to hoard.
The governor wants to study the possibility of extracting oil out of oil sands in North Alabama. So for places like Anniston where they want to promote eco-tourism, the state of Alabama wants to come in and do the opposite, pollute everything, and make people suffer with contaminated water and land. Is that what Alabama wants to be known for?
And then there is the Medicaid issue. Governor Bentley is refusing to expand Medicaid in Alabama, that would create over 30,000 new jobs and provide affordable health insurance to people in Alabama who needs it. The reason, the Federal Government is broke.
He is a coward in my opinion. Not expanding Medicaid will subject our poorest residents to needless risk of illness and death at worst, and will also result in those impoverished citizens being hit with thousands of dollars in tax penalties if estimates say they are eligible for a subsidy but their actual income falls below the poverty line. Expansion would create over 30,000 jobs, save the lives of the poor, and improve our economy. And it will cost us virtually nothing. There is literally no reason not to do this — other than cowardice.
Many people have criticized the governor for not expanding Medicaid. Bentley wants to instead change Medicaid from a fee-for-service model in favor of a network of managed care organizations. Here are a couple of reasons I think this is not going to work. One, the Federal Government won’t allow this because they run the Medicaid system and they dedicate what happens with the Medicaid dollars. Two, these regional managed care organizations are going to be overwhelmed with many people. And other doctor clinics will close because they don’t see enough patients, costing more jobs. And three, with the amount of people expected to be in these clinics, the wait times is going to very long! I think the state of Alabama does not know what they are getting into.
But good job Governor Bentley, this entire speech was basically a campaign speech for the launch of your 2014 re-election campaign. I know some people are tired of the Federal Government and programs like Obamacare, but you sounded like a person who is ready to force Alabama to secede from the union and begin preps for another Civil War. To wrap up this post, I have written my five things I want the Alabama Legislature to do this session.
Alabama is one of the very few states, along with Utah, that pretty much bans all gambling. Except for those Indian casinos, Alabama is an arid landscape in the gambling world. Everytime the Mega Millions or Powerball jackpots reach extremely high levels, many people in Alabama will drive to the Georgia, Florida, or Tennessee borders and find the first gas station to purchase their tickets. At the same time, these people are spending money on gas, food, or other things that is benefiting the economies of the border towns. This means tax revenue is leaving Alabama and going to the neighboring states, get the idea.
Alabama must start a state lottery. Poll after poll has many people in Alabama supporting a state lottery. And somehow our lawmakers remain stupid to not pass a bill to allow the people to vote for a lottery. If Alabama does not want to do the right thing and reform our tax code so schools can be properly funded, then start a state lottery! This should be a no-brainer decision, but our lawmakers are dealing with issues to make the state even worse, bravo Alabama!
Keeping Common Core:
One issue that is extremely hot is Common Core. Some groups in Alabama, mostly Tea Party folks, are wanting the Alabama Legislature to dumb down Alabama and make our education the laughing-stock of America. The Alabama Legislature does not want to deal with the Common Core issue, mostly because this is an election year and Common Core is a controversial issue. But that is not stopping some people from protesting and pressuring lawmakers to do something.
Common Core standards are intended to make sure students are learning the same thing at the same time, and have been adopted by 45 states. Common Core establishes a minimum education standard across the nation. Any school board wishing to expand the curricula is free to offer more demanded courses. These are standards not developed by the Federal Government, so kids will learn the same thing, no matter where they move too. And these standards will make sure kids are ready for adulthood when they graduate from high school. Apparently, some people wants to make sure kids are dumbed down and are made stupid. Sorry Tea Party folks, Common Core is good for America and Alabama! Read more about why Geek Alabama supports Common Core at: http://geekalabama.com/2013/03/21/the-case-for-common-core-standards/
Regulating Payday Lending:
Alabama has way too many businesses that pretty much steal the money away from poorer people. Go up and down certain roads in urban areas, and you see multiple businesses that promote payday lending. Payday lending is when someone gets quick and short-term cash, and gets charged with a ridiculous interest rate to get that cash. Because of the extremely high interest rates, people who use payday lending can never get out of the trap, and are forced to give up their processions like cars to get out of the trap.
Alabama needs to pass legislation to regulate the payday loan industry. Mostly with capping lower interest rates so people are not screwed when they use these businesses, but also with restrictions so you don’t see these businesses next to each other when you drive down an urban road. Sorry, I don’t see the notion that payday loan businesses help people in times of need. These businesses harm people and are predatory.
Improving Animal Welfare:
Alabama is the worst state in the country for animal welfare! Cockfighting is still a misdemeanor, or a slap on the wrist, where some people still participate in the sport. And sadly, some people still participates in dogfighting as well. Alabama has some veterinarians who wants to make it much harder to spay and neuter pets with low-cost clinics, just so they can charge up to $300 for one procedure, and there is a severe overpopulation of pets and animals in Alabama. Animal shelters struggle with the overpopulation and put many animals to sleep.
Lawmakers in Alabama needs to pass bills to keep the low-cost spay and neuter clinics around, make cockfighting, dogfighting, and other animal fighting a severe felony, and yes, force people to spay and neuter their pets like many other places in America already do. AVRAL, or Alabama Voters For Responsible Animal Legislation, is working to pass laws like these and more to protect animals. Learn more about AVRAL at: http://www.alabamavotesforanimals.org/
Reforming The Tax Code:
Alabama is broke, ladies and gentlemen. Governor Bentley touted the money Alabama has saved, on the backs of working people, during his State of the State address.
He even said Alabama has the poorest county in America, Wilcox County. When a governor says something like that, that is not good!
Alabama has had in place an unfair tax system since the state constitution was re-written way back in 1901. Did you know Alabama has the longest and oldest constitution in the world that needs to be re-written? The tax code heavily relies on sales taxes and extremely low property taxes to fund the state government. This means some school systems don’t have the proper funding to run, state courts are far behind in their case loads and are charging fees that some people can’t pay, and our state prisons are severely overcrowded. I hope the feds force Alabama to release thousands of prisoners to lower the overcrowding, people are going to freak out and I will be laughing!
The Alabama Legislature needs to reform our tax code so poorer people don’t have to pay the high sales taxes they already pay. And yep, it means people who are well off will need to pay a little more, and they can afford it! Our property tax code also needs reforming, if we doubled our property taxes, Alabama would still have the lowest property taxes in America. If we don’t do something to increase revenue, courts will be so backed up that people on trial will walk free because they did not get a speedy trial, thousands of inmates will walk free because the federal government forced Alabama to do so, and most of state government can not function properly. That means our roads will fall further into disrepair, restaurants can not be inspected, gas pumps can not be tested, and so on.