By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Gubernatorial candidate Chris Countryman (D) recently took time to answer a series of written questions from The Alabama Political Reporter (APR) about his policy positions on a number of State issues.
APR: The State is considering borrowing $800 million to build new prisons. What is your stance on that?
Countryman: “I believe, at least at this point in time, that we need to avoid borrowing money at all costs. Then we need to focus on eliminating the excessive and wasteful spending in our government and apply those funds to specific projects. Once we have generated enough revenue we should look into renovation of our prisons, along with justice reform, and then go from there.”
APR: A plan to raise gas taxes to pay for new roadwork failed. Do you favor that and if not do you think more money should be spent on road infrastructure? If so from where?
Countryman: “Right now citizens in the lower and middle class find it difficult to get by with our current taxes and low minimum wage standard. So raising the gas tax would place more of a burden on low income families. Since we definitely need to improve our infrastructure we would use funding from the various departments and programs that were eliminated due to them being excessive, unnecessary or wasteful. Funding would also be available due to the revenue that is generated as a result of reforming our tax laws and closing the loopholes that benefit the super wealthy. Of course this is only the first step.”
APR: Governor Robert Bentley did not expand Medicaid. What is your position on whether we should expand Medicaid?
Countryman: “I believe that we most definitely need to expand Medicaid. Healthcare should be a right as a citizen, not a luxury only available to the wealthy or those who can afford it. Statistics show that those who have health insurance have a much lower loss to cost ratio. This results in less financial strain on our government, insurance companies and the health-care industry because the person is healthier which reduces the amount of money that has to be spent in order to care for disease and illness that could have been prevented had adequate health-care been available.”
APR: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama has over 90 percent of the health insurance market in this State. What, if anything, would you do to increase competition?
Countryman: “Simple legislation that regulates the activity of insurance companies is really all that’s needed to prevent a potential monopoly on the health insurance market; however I do not know if that is completely necessary at this time.”
APR: Efforts to bring more technology such as tablets to schools has repeatedly failed at the State level. What would you do (if anything) to help poorer school systems get access to more technology?
Countryman: “Apart from any of the methods for generating revenue that I’ve mentioned already, we could use revenue generated from lottery gaming in the State. We could also offset the high costs of obtaining needed technology resources by purchasing technology applications that cost less but have comparable features, and by using more open source software programs and applications.”
APR: Our economic recovery has lagged behind that of most of America. What would you do as Governor, if anything, to try to get a more robust Alabama economy?
Countryman: “Well every question that has been asked plays a role in helping shape the economy. So apart from that which we’ve already discussed I would include a minimum wage increase. As people start making more the start spending more. Thus the economy begins to get better due to increased spending by consumers, improved profits for business and business owners causing them to spend more as well, and the cycle goes on and on causing the economy begins to get better.”
APR: Should we expand school choice in Alabama, and if so how?
Countryman: “This would be a yes and no question. In some situations, yes, but in others no. I think this should be a decision left up to school districts and local municipalities rather than one the State handles. If it seems that the State needs to get involved because of abuse of privileges then we would step in.”
APR: Many Alabamians believe that America was founded on Christian principles and that we should do what is necessary to advance the Kingdom of God in this world. How can you reconcile that with the fact that you would be the first openly homosexual Governor in State history?
Countryman: “First I consider myself a citizen of Alabama. Just like many other citizens I work here and pay taxes here. I have faced the same struggles as many other citizens have as our economy struggled. While I am not ashamed of who I fell in love with, or who I am, the person I am married to has little to do with my ability to govern. That’s because when you look at the big picture, my love life is a very insignificant issue when you look at the many other similarities I have in common with my fellow citizens.
And while I come from a Christian family, and am in favor of protecting our citizens’ rights to religious expression, I also understand that our country was founded by men who desired freedom of religion to be without restrictions, so that everyone could worship the way they believed. The First Amendment has a clause that clearly says that the State shall not declare a statewide religion and that they will not pass Legislation that is a respecter of a specific religious belief over another. So I can assure all my fellow citizens, who choose to practice their religious beliefs, that when I am Governor they will be able to safely, openly and freely practice their religious beliefs without prejudice or infringement from the State; so long as their religious practices do not cause physical harm to other citizens or infringe on their rights either.”
APR: Running as a Democrat, do you believe that you can effectively govern if the GOP retains a supermajority in both Houses and most of the other elected State officers?
Countryman: “I believe wholeheartedly that my life experiences, having come from a military family and having served as a minister for several years, exposed me to a diverse social network. Because of this, and other contributing factors, I have little doubt that I will be able to diplomatically address the issues that our State faces with my fellow legislators, and to be able to reach a common consensus that is beneficial to the people of Alabama.”
APR: Is the American dream dying in Alabama, and if so how we do we change that?
Countryman: “I do not believe that it is dying, per say. It is said that the American dream is rooted in the Declaration of Independence, that we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Most people, at least the majority, understand that our freedoms and liberties are still ours to enjoy. Everyone may not be happy due to challenges in our economy that causes burdens for them and their families; but they still have the right to pursue that happiness. One way to pursue that happiness is to practice their right to vote; and elect leaders that are going to put the people’s interests first; and ones that will bring the people one step closer to being able to achieve every aspect of the American dream.”
APR: Should the State repeal the Alabama College and Career Ready standards?
Countryman: “I do believe that their needs to be a statewide standard for educational development, and that the standard should also have a means by which a student’s success, as well as their ability to progress in the educational system, can be measured. The current standards, in my opinion, should be repealed and rewritten where they are clear on what all the standards are, how to implement the standards, and an action plan in case these standards are not met. That way we are giving our students and administrators every opportunity to be successful in their educational paths.”
The major party primaries are on June 5, 2018.
The State General Election will be November 6, 2018.