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Bentley Asks Legislature to Give him His Tax Increases

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Republicans run for office promising limited government and lower taxes.  Alabama is a State government run almost entirely by Republicans.  The state has a Republican Governor, Lt. Governor, State Supreme Court, and overwhelming Republican Supermajority in both houses of the State legislature.  But instead of downsizing Alabama government and lowering everyone’s taxes, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is actually demanding that Republican legislators raise taxes on the people of Alabama by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Governor Bentley said, “We have spent the last four years making government operate more efficiently and effectively, saving taxpayers over $1.2 billion annually.  As we begin the 2015 Legislative Session, one of the most serious issues we face is the funding of our State’s General Fund. We have debts that must be repaid, and we must help our two largest agencies, Medicaid and Corrections, with funding increases. I am presenting a plan that will increase revenue for the General Fund and make taxes more fair and equitable for everyone.”

The Governor’s Revenue Plan includes eight tax increases totaling $541 million. The Governor is also proposing un-earmarking $187 million to help prop up the troubled General Fund. Many in the legislature have expressed skepticism over the Governor’s claims that the state can not be further downsized.

Gov. Bentley addressed 150 corporate leaders at the Harbert Center and said, “Without new revenue we will never be able to pay off our debts and get our State on solid financial ground…I know it’s difficult to talk about raising taxes. But the revenue solution I have proposed is about tax fairness…If the hardworking people of Alabama pay their share of taxes, so should large corporations….There is nothing more conservative than paying off your debts and getting your fiscal house in order…And I need you all to help convince the Legislature that we must have new revenue if we are ever going to get our state out of debt and get our financed in order.”

There is enormous opposition to Gov. Bentley’s proposals.

Deanna Frankowski, Coordinator of the Alabama Constitutional Conservatives stated, “That while there appears to be a shortfall in monies for fiscal year 2015, Conservatives do not support Governor Bentley’s $541 million proposed tax increases.  First and foremost, measures should be taken to combine agencies, cut waste, un-earmark monies, etc. prior to any thought of a tax increase. Two agencies in particular, the Public Service Commission and Auditor have managed to cut spending and reduce costs while at the same time running their agencies without missing a step.  Our group also does not espouse to the fact that Governor Bentley suddenly woke up after the November, 2014 elections and realized that we were in debt and that future revenues were not going to be enough to fund the various agencies and programs in the State of Alabama. The more we “kick the can down the road” the longer it hangs around and by that we mean that we continue to raise taxes prior to taking the necessary steps to make sure all agencies and funding is proper and necessary!”

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In an Alabama Policy Institute (API) release, noted conservative economist Steve Moore questioned the thinking behind said, “The problem with the Alabama budget right now is that the state is not growing fast enough, not enough jobs are being created. If you raise taxes on the business creators and on the workers, and on the investors, you’re going to get less businesses and you’re going to get less workers, and less investors. Under that kind of circumstance, you’re actually going to have higher unemployment, so I don’t get the logic behind raising taxes to try to balance the budget.”  Moore suggested that the state should be working toward abolishing it’s state income tax not raising the tax burden on the people of Alabama.

Public Service Commission (PSC) President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh has said that the state does not need more money. Cavanaugh said recently that he job as President of the PSC is to make things better for job growth in Alabama. “You don’t do that by having higher taxes,” Cavanaugh said.

A new group has arisen to support Governor Bentley’s policies: the Alabama Council for Excellent Government announced that it, “Promotes public policies that give Alabamians a more effective, efficient, accountable and excellent government. ACEGov supports Governor Bentley in his efforts to solve real problems and to make Alabama greater and stronger for all the hardworking men and women who call this Great State our home…Governor Robert Bentley has made the bold decision to identify, address and solve those problems rather than prolong them with temporary, quick-fixes. And he has presented Alabamians and Alabama Lawmakers with real solutions…The men and women we elect to represent us have a duty to lead our State to be even greater than it is today. We must expect our State leaders to face challenges head on, make tough decisions and do what’s necessary to create an environment where jobs can be created, where children have an opportunity to get a good, quality education beginning at an early age, and where government operates efficiently and effectively to serve the hardworking taxpayers.”

Addressing the Governor’s tax proposals will be one of the first priorities of the legislature when it returns from Spring Break.  A public hearing is scheduled for April 1 on the controversial tax policies.

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

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