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So, Who Wants to Govern?

 

By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter

Can they govern? That’s a fair question. After all, Republicans have a supermajority in both the House and Senate. They have the governor’s office.

And, yet, they are apparently unable to govern.

Republicans, if they were on the same page, could do whatever they wanted. There aren’t enough Democrats in the Legislature to make much of a difference. There hasn’t been a Democratic Party governor since Don Siegelman’s one term ended in 2003. Siegelman is in federal prison on a corruption conviction.

So the Republicans are it. Overwhelmingly: IT.

And, yet, they are apparently unable to govern.

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Well, it’s not so easy, right? A financial crisis in the State General Fund (SGF) budget means making some hard decisions. Raise taxes? Cut more state services? Gambling? A little (or a lot) of all?

Or maybe not. If conservative lawmakers put aside their years’-long promises not to raise taxes, that could come back to bite them in the next election. For lawmakers who are looking toward the next election, doing what’s best for their campaigns is more important than doing what’s best for the state. Yeah, cynical, but true.

Republican Gov. Robert Bentley certainly has been willing to put tax increases on the table – more than $500 million in the failed regular session, and more than $300 million in this suspended-for-weeks Special Session. Of course, Bentley doesn’t have another election to worry about, does he?

Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), whose credibility is suffering under 23 felony counts of public corruption, may not have the “can-do, will-do” clout he once had.

Alabama Political Reporter editor in chief Bill Britt reports that Hubbard, behind the scenes, is pushing for about $100 million in tax increases and a deal with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to bring in millions more. Giving the Poarch Band exclusive rights to gambling in Alabama is not the way to go, but certainly, within a larger gambling package – one that includes a state lottery at a minimum — a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians should be on the in the mix because it would bring in revenue the State is not getting now.

What it looks like, though, is that lawmakers may not be able to figure it all out during this phantom-like Special Session. Which means: Another Special Session. Republicans must give the state a General Fund budget by Oct. 1, the start of the State’s fiscal year.

And, yet, they are apparently unable to govern.

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Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) continues to claim the Senate isn’t on board for tax increases, and there are real questions about that in the House as well, despite what Hubbard may propose.

The dark cloud for Republicans (and the State) is a $200 million hole, at a minimum, in the SGF budget. That’s just for the next budget year. Looming is years of budget crises that the Republican supermajority (or somebody) must deal with.

The world doesn’t exist where it costs less next year to operate prisons or public safety or child welfare or Medicaid than it does this year.

Ironically, one way to grow the economy at a pretty decent clip is to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Studies have shown that expanding Medicaid alone could bring hundreds of millions of dollars in net revenue to the State treasury through increased jobs across all economic sectors.

Expanding Medicaid, though, isn’t even on that table. That idea is D.O.A., or, more accurately where Republicans are concerned, D.B.A – Dead Before Arrival.

Hard decisions are most often unpopular decisions, but real leaders find a way. They weave a path, however sloppy or difficult, through the political muddle to do what’s right for our state and the good people who live here. They buck up and throw down. And don’t forget, Republicans have the votes to do whatever it is they want to do.

For now, they apparently don’t want to govern.

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Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes this column every Wednesday for Alabama Political Reporter.
Email: [email protected].

 

Joey Kennedy
Written By

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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