Yesterday marked a microcosm of how the next four years could be. We took up a very difficult issue on the House floor with the repeal of the DROP program. At the heart of the controversy was the balance between fiscal responsibility and sound legislative policy. While these two principles should not be mutually exclusive, yesterday’s debate showed that they could sometimes be at odds in the legislative process.
DROP was passed in 2002 with bipartisan support as a mechanism to retain our quality, experienced state employees, particularly our educators in the areas of math, science, and technology. As with any program, it became outdated, and it needed to be revamped to carry out its purpose at little to no cost to the State coffers. The advocates for fiscal responsibility called for wholesale repeal of the program. The advocates for responsible policy proposed modifications to the program that would bring DROP back to its intended purpose and make it revenue neutral. My friend Barry Mask, the sponsor of the bill, even agreed that these modifications were good and should be put into the program. But DROP couldn’t be modified until it was killed, they said.
Initially, no amendments were allowed on the bill. In fact, a bi-partisan amendment put on the bill by Republican Representative Harry Shiver was stripped off by the majority’s leadership. After hours of negotiation, however, sound policy prevailed. Representative Mac McCutcheon proposed an amendment to create a bi-partisan study commission on DROP that would take up many of these proposals to modify the program. By the fifth legislative day of the 2012 Session, the Commission would present a report to the Legislature recommending how to reconstitute DROP to carry out its intended purpose in a fiscally responsible way. This amendment passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support. Yes, DROP will be put on the shelf for a year, but I believe that it will come back better than before. The Speaker has given me his commitment to working with the entire body to rebuild DROP so that it can fulfill its intended purpose. And, in its new form, DROP will carry out that purpose in a fiscally responsible way.
If we continue to work together, not as proponents for our parties, but as advocates for the people we represent, fiscal responsibility and sound policy can coexist. My grandfather always said that in every challenge lies an opportunity waiting to be discovered. Working together, we can tackle the challenges that face our State knowing that we will seize the opportunities that lie beneath. That is our charge.