SCHRODER: In Defense Of The Bill Everyone Hates

Editor’s Note: We covered Rep. John Schroder’s HB 523 last week and called it “The Bill Everyone Will Hate;” as it turned out we were pretty close to correct. Rep. Schroder explains, in a speech given on the House floor a transcript he’s provided below, exactly how correct we were…

This the full copy of the speech I gave today on the House floor that’s getting a lot of attention:

Mr. Speaker and members,
I appreciate the opportunity to address everyone. Last week I received an email from a citizen of this state in response to HB523. This individual told me to put a gun in my mouth and blow my brains out.

What kind of bill would cause someone to say that? I know I have a tendency to rock the boat from time to time, but blow my brains out??? It certainly was not my intention to place a bull’s eye on your back or mine.

Many years of dedicating money and avoiding sound budget practices have brought us practically to our knees and threatens the very foundation needed to sustain the state budget.

It’s frustrating, and inexcusable that it has gotten to this point. We have only ourselves to blame because we didn’t have the COURAGE to make the difficult decisions that we were elected to make.

We collectively got ourselves into this mess, and it will take ALL of us working together to fix the problem. I have heard overwhelmingly from many citizens of this state that EVERYTHING should be on the table in this crisis. So I filed a constitutional amendment that did just that. But the ink was hardly dry before groups began desperately trying to get exempted from the process. That’s exactly how we got into this mess.

In the last seven years, some of our budget decisions have hit hard in our key services to the public and the list is lengthy to include: college tuition increases of 60 -70 %; we’ve diverted our transportation funding; thousands of people are on waiver waiting lists for healthcare and by all experts’ projections, next year is going to be worse unless we do something fundamentally different.

Last week in Appropriations Committee, various groups came to plead their case for funding, knowing that our decisions alone could have drastic impact on their lives: Organ donor groups, the the visually impaired, the disabled, children in need. Without financial assistance from the State many of our most vulnerable, through no fault of their own, will suffer.

It’s hard to believe that there is not enough money to take care of the needs in our state with billions in our budget. None the less, we are trying to solve a $1.6 billion dollar deficit, with only $600 million in discretionary funds. One of the main causes is dedicated money…. close to $4 billion dollars!

This is not the sole source of the problem… we give away another $7.2 billion in credits and exemptions. Many have called for a constitutional convention insisting we must undedicate these funds.

I filed or coauthored several bills that would give the legislature the ability to see the entire budget and prioritize based on the needs of the state. Many people supported the idea. Thought it was great…..until they realized it included everything AND everybody!

Staunch opposition comes from the public safety sector. As a former law enforcement officer, I understand firsthand the hard work that these men and women do – Which is why I voted to increase supplemental pay by 18% in 2008 and voted to give a raise to the State Police. Ironic that the threatening email I received was from a law enforcement officer who thought the bill was trying to take away policemen’s supplemental pay; which this bill ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT!

But who are we representing? This is not the House of special interest. This is the people’s house! Our decisions must be based on what is best for every individual.

This bill is NOT designed to make arbitrary or across the board cuts to those currently dedicated. This bill IS designed to provide the flexibility to make cuts to balance our budget – a structural fix to our budget process. However, at this time, I have decided to not move HB523 until we get together to resolve the issues.

Our choices are few: Raise Taxes; Cut exemptions and credits, or undedicate funds. I simply cannot go back to the people of this state and raise taxes on hard working families without exhausting every effort to actually fix the problem.

The reason we are here is because we keep doing the same damn thing over and over again. Our goal should not be to reach a mere consensus but to find a cure.

I’m going to end with a quote by John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”

Let me tell you something gang, It’s time to saddle up!

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