Editor’s note: Jessica DeLoach Sabin is a frequent contributor to Talk Business & Politics. Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of Talk Business & Politics.
When people get elected to office on the promise that they will always be an absolute no to anything related to President Obama, you get what we’ve got right now. You get people who, out of pressure to maintain their elected positions, will always have to live up to the promise to always say no to any policy related to the President despite the fact that circumstances evolve and that reality must dictate leadership – not the fear of a response from a body of people who are victims of manufactured rage.
You see, very little of the impasse we are experiencing with our current fiscal session and inability to fund the Medicaid expansion has anything to do with the man who occupies the White House. Rather, this is far more about an inability to separate the ending of a policy conversation from an obligation to keep our state moving forward.
In 2013, then-Gov. Mike Beebe signed the Private Option into law. The plan was designed as an alternate way to provide healthcare to hundreds of thousands of Arkansans in a way that minimized federal input over the way we accepted the mandate that we extend care to our most at-risk population or be penalized for not doing so.
Republicans largely crafted this move and it placed greater control and flexibility into the hands of our state government – which many viewed as a smart way of minimizing the reach of a big federal government. The agreement was that we could maintain the waiver that allowed us to do this so long as we actually did it – and this was one of the greatest and most historic compromises ever struck between democrats and republicans in our state’s history.
Unfortunately, there were people who viewed this significant moment in governance as a travesty and have basically vowed to mark their time in office by crusading against any sort of compromise that uses federal dollars to make life better for those with great needs.
Some will view this sort of resolve and obstructionism as “D.C.-style politics” and may even think this sort of behavior is part of the new reality Arkansans must accept as the state continues to grow more conservative.
But that would be a wrong assessment.
We do not have to accept the actions of a few when the result of their actions is to the detriment of the entire state – especially when it’s all being done on behalf of a hyper-partisan strategy to undermine government altogether.
If we do not pass the funding for Gov. Hutchinson’s “Arkansas Works” plan, then we will be voluntarily creating a $142.7 million hole in our state budget. This hole will be plugged at the expense of programs and services that many Arkansans benefit from and rely upon every day. To make these cuts would be to create greater trouble down the road.
Also, it’s worth noting that we could also be doing a better job at funding these items currently resting on the chopping block. We need to make greater investments into pre-K, our higher education structure, juvenile justice programs, and entities that assist abused and neglected children. We need to pay for the necessary repairs that keep our roads safe for motorists. We need a lot and right now we’re fighting for the bare minimum.
So this is me encouraging each of you who read this to stand up for what is right and good and to take ownership of the future of our state. You can do this by taking the time to reach out to your elected officials. You can do this by writing letters to the editors of your local papers. Create a conversation around the undeniable truths that will result from an unwillingness to accept the loss of a battle and feed a war.
Also, don’t shy away from applauding the efforts of those who may stand opposite of you politically but who have voted in favor of our collective best interest.
The budget-making process is not the place where ideology should get worked out. It’s the place where we put a stake in the future we want to have.