By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Republicans all over the country run campaigns promising that if elected they will make government smaller and save taxpayers money by cutting government waste and inefficiency. Many times actual performance shows that government gets bigger, hires more staff, and expands its mission despite which party is in power. Not so in Alabama. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) and the Republican super-majority vowed to chop off an ambitious billion dollars in annual savings over Bentley’s first four years in office. On Monday, Bentley announced that not only has the Republican super-majority accomplished its goal, but they surpassed it and did it one year earlier than expected.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said in a written statement, “Alabamians elected us to make state government more efficient and live within our means without raising taxes or cutting essential services. State government was broke when Republicans entered office in 2011, but together with Legislative leaders, we took a serious look at how we could find savings in state government. Today, I’m honored to announce that we have found over $1 billion in annual savings that will allow us to be better stewards of taxpayer money and operate state government as efficiently and effectively as possible.”
Alabama Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn said, “Under Republican majority leadership, Alabama lawmakers have put the state on a path to save taxpayers more than $1 billion. When Republicans took over the Legislature for the first time in 136 years, we promised to make tough decisions and live within our means, just like every household in Alabama, and we’ve taken that vow seriously. I’m proud of our success to date, but we are continuing our efforts to streamline and right-size government without raising a single dime of taxes.”
Alabama Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey (R) said, “Today’s announcement is another high mark of this administration. To reach this milestone in three years is the result of strong leadership and commitment by Governor Bentley, Pro Tem Marsh, Speaker Hubbard, the Legislature, and state employees to create a more efficient and accountable government that maximizes every tax dollar collected and spent. Early on I was asked to chair the Commission on Improving State Government and I am pleased to be a part of these sustainable changes that were implemented to help reduce costs and improve operational efficiency. Streamlining state government will be one of the key legacies of this administration’s first term.”
Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) said, “Unlike the reckless, out-of-control spending we see in the federal government, Alabama has set a strong example for how to cut spending and run a more efficient, cost-effective government. Thanks to Governor Bentley, Lt. Governor Ivey and Republicans in the Legislature, we have reduced government spending by $1 billion and given Alabamians the lean and cost effective government we promised them in 2010.”
According to estimates from the Alabama Department of Finance, the State was able to cut its total anticipated expenditures by $1.137 billion a year. This was achieved by making state employees contribute more of their pay towards their own pensions at a savings to the taxpayer of $345.6 million in average annual savings. The Republican Super-majority saved another $160.7 million a year by cutting excess staff in what they call, “Workforce Right-Sizing.”
The state cut what they contribute towards teacher and State Employees’ Healthcare Benefits by $118.8 million a year. Abolishing the controversial DROP program where veteran state employees could tap their pension while still working for the state saved the taxpayers another $58.5 million a year. The Republicans were able to cut indigent defense by $15.3 million a year. Merit-Raise freezes for state employees have saved the state an impressive $139.7 million a year.
Agency streamlining and realignment was credited with saving the state $49.5 million a year. The prescription drug exemption has saved the state $200 million a year. The state renegotiated numerous contracts saving taxpayers $28.8 million a year. Finally the state took advantage of historically low interest rates and refinanced the state’s debt. This generated a savings of $20.4 million annually and will save the state nearly $245.3 million total over the life of the bonds.
Governor Bentley said that the total savings of $1.137 billion a year will benefit both the Education Trust Fund and the General Fund budgets. Bentley acknowledged that Alabama still faces budget challenges, but credited these savings with helping the state avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in reductions to essential state agencies and services. Governor Bentley said that he and the Republican legislative leaders are committed to continuing to build upon these efforts and make state government even more efficient.
Critics of the Republican super-majority claim that many of these savings were generated by making state employees give up pay and benefits. Supporters of the cuts say that the downgrades in benefits simply brought state pay and benefits more in line with the private sector.
Opinion | No peace, no calm, but that’s “normal”
“My students and I are on a first-name basis. But when I can’t call their names, it leaves me confused and frustrated. Like the world we live in today.”
I have more than 100 students in my classes at UAB, and I can call only a few by name. Masks are important, but I haven’t yet learned to memorize foreheads, and that’s really all I see when I look at a student’s face. A few, with either a distinctive hair cut or color, or who have other identifying features in the upper half of their faces, I can name. Not many, though.
My students and I are on a first-name basis. But when I can’t call their names, it leaves me confused and frustrated.
Like the world we live in today. Like these United States. Like Alabama.
A worsening pandemic, unrest across the country, a chaotic election a few days away, an economy in the tank, it is difficult for me to feel settled. Grounded. Peaceful. Calm.
The 300th or so hurricane just zipped through Alabama this week. The storm was named Zeta because we’re out of names for hurricanes. And there’s still fully a month remaining in the hurricane season. Eta is next.
We may not know who the next president will be even by the end of next week. Or we could know Tuesday night if it’s the blowout for Democrats that predictions say it will be. If former Vice President Joe Biden wins Florida, Michigan, or Wisconsin, it’s pretty much over for President Donald Trump.
But, then, we know how well the heavily favored candidates sometimes do, right Hillary?
Remember, if Trump does lose in Jimmy Carter proportions, he’s still going to be president for another two-and-a-half months. There’s no predicting what he’ll do during that time, but we know this for sure: No peace. No calm.
Our hope in Alabama has to be that U.S. Sen. Doug Jones is re-elected. That’s the only choice that makes sense. A washed-up, mediocre football coach who doesn’t have a clue about government and who has spent most of his time in Florida will not represent the state well, especially if the Senate goes Democratic, as expected.
Jones is no “California liberal,” as one columnist with Alabama Political Reporter described him. That’s just a plea to the uninformed voter in a typical Republican effort to falsely spin Jones as something he is not. Hell, I wish Jones was a California liberal. We could use some of that in Alabama. Instead, for the most part, all our elected officials are simply philosophical clones of each other.
There are no new ideas. No effort to take the state forward. In most every quality-of-life category, Alabama ranks at the bottom or near it. Our current leadership seems determined to keep us there.
Our elected officials don’t even learn from their mistakes. Anti-masker Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth contracted the coronavirus, and, thankfully, he recovered. Still, he remains against the mask mandate.
Trump contracted the coronavirus, too, and after being surrounded by a grumble of the best doctors at one of the best hospitals, he came back, snatched that mask off his face, and almost immediately began holding those foolish superspreader political rallies again.
The cult members attend, many without masks or social distancing, and some of the cult members die.
Meanwhile, Trump flies away in that fancy jet we taxpayers own, and, in at least one case, leaves his supporters stranded outside in the bitter cold for hours. Loyalty to the cult of Trump pays huge dividends, I write sarcastically.
There is no peace. No calm. This is not to be had in the America Trump made “great” again.
And I don’t know my students when I see them. I must memorize foreheads.
Even so, the masks are important, as is social distancing. I can ask a student what her name is, and when it’s one I have known for years, I can apologize. A small inconvenience to stay well.
The student always offers grace, always tells me it’s OK.
We both pretend that’s just normal.
Opinion | Election Day is next week
This will be a memorable and historical election year. This 2020 pandemic year is hopefully only a once in a century event.
Well, folks, it is finally here. The presidential race is next Tuesday. However, a good many Americans have already voted. True early voting is available in a half dozen states and every American can vote by absentee ballot and a good many have taken advantage of that right. A record number of Alabamians have voted absentee. However, the election for president will be decided next week when most voters go to the polls.
This will be a memorable and historical election year. This 2020 pandemic year is hopefully, only a once in a century event. 2020 is a pivotal presidential year. Never before in my lifetime have I seen our country more divided politically into extremely partisan corners. We are really two nations, and we are split almost 50-50. This is understandable because the country is truly divided philosophically.
Back in the day our own George Wallace would run around the country running for president as a third-party candidate in a Don Quixote mission espousing the rhetoric that there is not a dimes worth of difference between the national Republican and Democratic parties. Nobody could say that, even in demagogic form, today.
Folks, there is a world of difference today. The Republican Party is very conservative, and the Democratic Party is extremely liberal. This divide between the two parties is enhanced and perpetuated by the media, especially, the television networks. If you are a conservative Republican you watch Fox News. If you are a liberal Democrat, you watch CNN. It is like seeing the nation’s politics and dogma through two different prisms.
The two parties should and could more aptly change their names. Republicans should be labeled the Conservative Party and the Democrats the Liberal Party. CNN, and to a large degree ABC, NBC and CBS, should take down any pretense of being impartial and simply have their broadcast from the Democratic National Headquarters. Conversely FOX News should broadcast from the Republican National Headquarters. MSNBC should be broadcast from Moscow
We in Alabama are definitely in the conservative Republican tribe as are most of the other southern and midwestern and rural states. The left coast of California and the eastern urban coast of New York are the bastions of liberalism and the Democratic party.
We do not elect our president by direct popular vote whereby the person who gets the most votes nationwide wins the presidency. Under our Electoral College system, the person who gets 50 percent plus one vote gets all of that states’ electoral votes. The number of electoral votes is determined by the number of congressional seats plus two senators. For example, California has 53 seats in Congress plus two Senators for 55 electoral votes. We in Alabama have seven congressional seats plus two senators which gives us nine electoral votes. Therefore, it does not take a math genius to tell that the liberal Democratic states like California, have more votes than rural, conservative states like Alabama.
President Donald Trump, who has been a proven conservative Republican, has been behind the eight-ball having to fight through the coronavirus disaster. It is not his fault that the Chinese sent this pandemic to the world and the United States, but voters will want to blame someone and he is the one in the Whitehouse and the one on the ballot.
In mid-September Trump’s reelection numbers and chances were dismal. However, in late September the much-discussed October surprise occurred. The death of liberal U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave the conservative President the opportunity to appoint a conservative to the Supreme Court. Trump is blessed to have a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.
This opportunity for President Trump to place a third conservative Justice to the nine-member Tribunal could be a game changer. This will energize evangelical voters throughout the country as well as devout, mainstream, Catholic voters in the crucial battleground states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona. The election will be decided in these six key battleground states.
The hay is in the barn in most other states. California will vote Democratic and we in Alabama will vote overwhelmingly Republican. President Trump will carry Alabama in a landslide. This third conservative appointment to the Supreme Court is like manna from Heaven and icing on the cake for Trump in the Heart of Dixie.
The Trump train will provide some long and heavy coattails, which will prove disastrous for our anomaly, liberal, national Democratic senator, Doug Jones. The crescendo Republican wave in Alabama will drown Democrat Jones into a watery grave. It has not helped Jones’s cause that during his short tenure he has voted right down the line with the left-wing Democratic leadership.
We will see next week.
Opinion | Doug Jones’s pathway to victory: Substance over lies
Jones said his work in the Senate should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity.
Alabama Sen. Doug Jones believes voters will ultimately see through Tommy Tuberville’s lazy campaign and lies, and that enough of them will be moved by his work over the last two years to send him back to D.C.
Jones’ comments came during a lengthy interview on the Alabama Politics This Week podcast. He also discussed his plans to address some of Alabama’s most pressing issues and also praised Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican.
But it was Jones’ comments about Alabama voters — and whether too many of them are incapable of moving away from the Republican Party — that were most interesting. Jones still believes there are open-minded voters in the state, and that there isn’t enough attention being paid to polls showing a growing dissatisfaction in Alabama with President Donald Trump.
“There are a number of things that Donald Trump has done that people (in Alabama) don’t agree with,” Jones said. “There are a number of things that he’s done that’s hurt Alabama and that they’re not OK with. That’s where I come in.”
Jones said his work in the Senate, where he’s sponsored the most bipartisan legislation over the last two years, should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity.
“I tell everyone, you owe it to yourself to look at every candidate and every issue,” Jones said. “I do that. I’ve been a Democrat all my life but I don’t think that I have ever pulled a straight lever. Because I look at every issue. I will tell you that there have been times that I didn’t vote for people who are Democrats for whatever reason — I just couldn’t do it. I think we owe it to ourselves to do that.”
Jones had the perfect example to drive the point home.
“Y’all all know our state auditor, Jim Zeigler? Jim wasn’t always a Republican. Jim’s first runs for office were as a Democrat.
“I rest my case.”
You can listen to the full interview at the Alabama Politics This Week website, or you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
Opinion | Counting on good Neighbors
Even though Neighbors is likely a long shot, he’s at least got a shot. The people of District 4 need to vote in their best interest this year, not to help Aderholt get richer off the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
There’s a lot of reasons we know it’s an election year — political ads on television, presidential debates, Donald Trump super-spreader campaign rallies.
Oh, and Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt is back in his congressional district. Every couple years, Aderholt shows up. So he can “appear” connected to Alabama’s 4th Congressional District.
The 4th Congressional District starts just north of Birmingham and stretches horizontally across the state. The district includes Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Lamar, Lawrence, Marion, Marshall, Walker and Winston counties as well as parts of Blount, Cherokee, Jackson and Tuscaloosa counties.
Aderholt pops in for a few campaign events, and then pops out to his real residence in suburban Washington D.C. He’s no more an Alabamian than Florida’s Tommy Tuberville.
Aderholt does have opposition this year in Democratic nominee Rick Neighbors, a Vietnam veteran who truly helps his neighbors. Early in the pandemic, Neighbors was passing out masks door-to-door in the district. He’s continued to help his neighbors throughout the pandemic with anything he can do.
“Being in Congress means being here and working with the people,” Neighbors says on his website. “In 24 years, Rob Aderholt has left us behind to focus on his radical agenda and gotten rich in Congress.”
That’s from a campaign website, but it’s absolutely true. Aderholt is still talking about expanding broadband access in his rural district. It’s one of the few issues he talks about every two years, for 24 years, without ever getting anything done.
Seriously. Name something Aderholt has done for his district or Alabama in the more than two decades he’s been in Congress. I won’t hold my breath.
And if you don’t think Neighbors’s campaign isn’t a little worrisome for Aderholt supporters, why are all the Neighbors signs disappearing from his district?
Adults, acting like sixth-graders, love to pull up political signs. Even in my comfortably Democratic neighborhood, some Doug Jones for Senate signs disappear. And, oddly in my neighborhood, I saw an actual Tommy Tuberville sign that had been pulled down in front of some misplaced person’s yard. It happens on both sides.
But in the 4th Congressional District, and especially in the Cullman County area, it’s hard for Neighbors and his staff to keep signs in place.
“Cullman has come down, and we have had to replace almost all our signs in Winston County,” said Neighbors’s campaign manager Lisa Ward. As for Winston County, Ward said, “we were told those are gone again.”
Can anybody be more junior high?
“We’ve seen places where our sign was, and it’s been replaced by Aderholt signs,” Ward said. “When we put signs out, we leave his and put ours next to his. We joke and say everyone needs friendly neighbors around.”
The Neighbors campaign does have the right spirit. They just work to replace the signs that disappear. But it is aggravating, to say the least.
“Someone told us that Aderholt is really worried if people find out he has an opponent or doesn’t live here he could struggle,” said Ward. “That’s why he’s not mentioning (Neighbors’s) campaign. And why we think they’re taking his signs down. So people don’t know. It’s really about people not getting a chance to know they have a choice. And there is no time to hear who he is.”
Well, here’s who he is: Neighbors served three tours in Vietnam during that war, enlisting when he was 17 years old. After the service, he got a college degree, then spent 35 years in the apparel business in North Alabama.
Neighbors and his wife, Judy, have three children, and Neighbors recently earned an MBA from the University of North Alabama.
Neighbors would be a breath of fresh air for Alabama in Washington. He won’t live there. He’ll be grounded in the 4th Congressional District.
If Aderholt wins, we won’t see him again until 2022. Twenty-four years in Congress is plenty of time to get something done. But with Aderholt, there’s not much to show for all that time.
And even though Neighbors is likely a long shot, he’s at least got a shot. The people of the 4th District need to vote in their best interest this year, not to help Aderholt get richer off the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.