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Bentley Releases Details On Controversial Tax Plan

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

In November, Governor Robert Bentley was reelected by the vast majority of the voters in Alabama easily outclassing his Democratic opponent. But was Gov. Bentley reelected because the people of Alabama trust him implicitly to lead them, or were they voting for his first term policies of rightsizing Alabama government, keeping taxes low, and consolidating state agencies?

Governor Bentley recently said in a speech to PARCA that he is going to spend his second term raising taxes on the people of Alabama.

On Friday, February 27, the Governor released his plan. The Governor recently said in a series of speeches that he is going to spend his second term raising taxes on the people of Alabama.

The Governor previously proposed a $700 million tax increase, but by Friday, Bentley had downsized that plan to just $541 million per year in new revenue. He has proposed doubling the State sales tax on car and truck sales from 2 percent to 4 percent which he claims would generate an estimated $200 million.

Smoking would get a lot more expensive. Bentley proposes raising the taxes on cigarettes and tobacco. A pack of cigarettes would cost 82.5 cents more under the plan. This would produce another $205 million in revenue for the State. Alabama currently has one of the lowest cigarette tax rates in the country.

Bentley also proposed changes to the corporate tax structure that would generate an estimated $20 million. The package also included: higher taxes on car rentals, changes to personal income tax deductions, higher taxes on utilities, and higher taxes on insurance.

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There is already tremendous opposition to Bentley’s plans. On Saturday, February 21, the Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee passed a resolution calling on the Governor and the Alabama Legislature not to raise taxes on the people of Alabama.

The resolution was passed by voice vote; but in the crowd of an estimated 500 Republican leaders, the Alabama Political Reporter did not hear any voices voting nay on the resolution.

The Governor recently said in a series of speeches that he is going to spend his second term raising taxes on the people of Alabama. Those plans had another setback on Saturday, February 21, when the Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee passed a resolution calling on the Governor and the Alabama Legislature not to raise taxes on the people of Alabama.

Following passage of the GOP executive committee resolution, State Representative Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) said on Facebook, “The Governor needs to listen to the Party on this! Florida is in the process of cutting taxes but did you see where Attalla just raised taxes? Raising taxes has the opposite effect! Let’s grow the economy to raise revenue!”

Rep. Butler said that he believes that Gov. Bentley, “Is a very good man. I think he is listening to his democrat chief of staff he hired (former Speaker of the House Seth Hammett). There is a good reason his chief of staff is not in elected office anymore. I think he would be better off with a conservative as an adviser. Hammett is one of the reasons we are in the mess we are in.”

The head of the influential Alabama Republican Assembly Don Wallace said on Facebook, “This is not the Dr. Bentley that I campaigned for back in 2010. That candidate talked about reducing the tax/regulatory burden, talked about reducing overhead and putting more dollars in the classroom and into fixing roads, talked about chasing the ‘lobbyists’ out of the capital and returning it to the people. Very disappointed in the threatening tones and insistence on proposing $700 million per year in MORE TAXES, when the state budgets have grown over $600 million annually in the last 3 years. My question for Dr. Bentley is ‘Where did the $600 million go?’”

Alabama Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) did not wait for the plan to come out publicly against it in a big way.

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Sen. Holtzclaw has gained considerable positive attention after he rented space on a billboard in Madison saying, “Governor Bentley wants to raise your taxes. I will not let that happen. Semper Fi – Senator Bill Holtzclaw.”

State Sen. Holtzclaw said on Facebook, “A little over 100 days ago Governor Bentley and I were re-elected on the same ticket to serve our constituents. After months of campaigning I don’t recall either of us discussing tax increases – in fact we were saying just the opposite, no tax increases. Since early January the message has rapidly gone from – we might need to look at raising taxes, to – we really should raise taxes, to – we are raising taxes $700M.I’m not ready to throw in the towel and surrender to the option of raising taxes. I believe the answer to our continued budget woes is two-fold; funding essential functions of government and un-earmarking the 80+ percent of the revenue that is locked up.”

Holtzclaw comments were made in an interview with WVNN’s Dale Jackson discussing why Holtclaw put the billboard up.

Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) Director John Cooper has since punished the people of Sen. Holtzclaw’s district; by shutting down over $100 million worth of road projects in the district. Cooper said that while Bentley did not order the action against Sen. Holtzclaw, but the Governor was aware of it.

The Governor is calling for massive tax increases of over $540 million a year which would take an estimated $5.4 billion out of the private sector over the next decade if implemented. The controversial plan is reminiscent of a plan by former Governor Bob Riley (R) in 2003; but unlike Gov. Riley’s Amendment One plan Bentley has said that he will not allow the people of Alabama to have a vote on his plan. Rather than pitching his plan to the people of Alabama, Bentley is putting pressure on legislators to pass his plan or else.

State Representative Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) has accused Gov. Bentley of threatening legislators who dare defy him by not funding road repairs in their districts as well as other projects.  Rep. Henry told Yellowhammer Politics, “The reason our State is in the state that it’s in is because people — legislators, politicians — believed they could go to Montgomery, go to Washington, do whatever they want as far as passing themselves pay raises, tax increases, but as long as they bring home the bacon, bring home the projects to their local area, they can do anything they want to in Montgomery. In 2010 we changed all that… I was not sent there to bring home the bacon.”

Even Democrats have expressed concerns that the Governor’s plan would hit Alabama families too hard and have urged the Governor to support Rep. Craig Ford’s (D) lottery plan. Ford has introduced one lottery bill that would plug the hole in the state’s General Fund as well as the lottery bill he normally introduces where the proceeds go to the Education Trust fund.

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State Senator J. T. “Jabo” Wagoner (R-Vestavia) said in a radio interview on 1070 AM that the legislature should raise the number of taxpayers in Alabama by growing the economy instead of raising taxes on the people of Alabama.

The Governor has just announced details of his $540 million plan, but an increasing number of voices are saying that plan is already dead on arrival in the legislature.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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