Our veterans deserve better

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On June 1, seventeen Veterans’ Affairs offices across Alabama were closed, including an essential office located in Centre.

Our legislature in Montgomery has one job above all others, and that is to write a budget every year. The Republican Supermajority that controls our legislature has the power to pass any budget it wants to without even talking to Democrats. It is very telling, then, that the Republicans rammed a budget through the legislature that cut so much funding from our veterans.

The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs provides disability compensation and pension benefits, education assistance, and long-term care services to the more than 400,000 veterans living in Alabama. In 2012, the department is taking a 15 percent cut. Next year’s budget will reduce the department’s budget by another 34 percent reduction.

These cuts could have been avoided had the legislature passed legislation that would have eliminated tax loopholes that allow multinational corporations like ExxonMobile to pay little or no state income taxes. Instead, the legislature chose to keep the tax loopholes and cut funding for our veterans.

The closing of the veterans affairs office in Centre, for example, will force local veterans to drive an extra 90 miles to the office in Madison County. At current gas prices, I have calculated that this will cost Cherokee county veterans about $30 more each time they visit the V.A. office, not to mention the hassle of an additional two hour drive.

As a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve and Alabama National Guard, as well as the Minority Leader of the Alabama House of Representatives, I vow that House and Senate Democrats will continue to fight for VA services, Medicaid services, and vocational school funding. 

Our members believe that veterans affairs, health services and work-force education are not luxuries, but economic imperatives to our state.

For the past two years, a radical agenda has been rammed through the legislature, resulting in tragic losses for our veterans, schools, and Medicaid, to name a few. I and the other House and Senate Democrats will continue to fight this radical agenda and do everything we can to stop these kinds of cuts and protect Alabama’s veterans and working families.

To the veterans of Etowah, Cherokee and Dekalb counties and to veterans all across the state of Alabama: thank you for your service, and please do not lose hope. I and the Democrats in the state legislature are still on your side! May God bless these United States, and may God continue to bless the souls that serve in uniform.

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