By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
When lawmakers convene to address the complicated issue of how to best fund the State’s General Fund Budget (SGF), perhaps they should look to the fabled Gordian Knot.
According to legend, in 333 BCE, Alexander the Great marched into Gordiun, the capital of Phrygia. He was shown the chariot of the ancient founder of the city, Gordius. The chariot was tied to a pole using a series of complicated knots. Tradition held that the man who untied the knot would be the conqueror of all Asia. It is said that Alexander drew his sword and cut the knot in two without hesitation.
This metaphor has given rise to the idea that a simple bold action can often solve a seemingly complicated problem.
Gov. Robert Bentley is proposing increased taxes, and if media reports are to be believed, Speaker Mike Hubbard has signed on to raising taxes as well.
Senate President Pro Tem, Del Marsh, on the other hand, has said repeatedly that the senators have no appetite for raising taxes. So, for now, it would appear there is a stalemate.
Here is a simple solution: plug the hole in the SGF with $225 million from the Use Tax, go home and come back with a plan to increase State revenues by growing the economy.
Simple and uncomplicated, but it will be unpopular with some. If lawmakers want to prove themselves to be true conservatives, however, this is the way.
With only a handful of days to hammer out a solution, legislators should consider an old maxim we turn to in the news business: “You can have it right, or you can have it now, but you can seldom have both.”
The State is led by a Republican supermajority, who, for the last four years, have been against raising taxes. Republicans are generally “tax-averse” with an eye toward cutting government spending, while encouraging free market growth.
Our Nation’s founders went to war over what they deemed were repressive taxes, and most Alabamians have not moved very far from the notion that increasing taxes is a bad idea.
Over the last four years, the Legislature has cut some four-thousand State employees. Other than those who lost their jobs, and their families, has anyone else noticed? Have lawmakers been inundated with calls to refill these positions? Probably not.
Also, over the last four years, the Republican supermajority has borrowed money to fill the hole in the SGF. Most would agree that borrow and spend Republicans are almost as bad as tax and spend Democrats.
Now it appears that Bentley and Hubbard want to turn the State’s Republicans into tax-and-spenders like the very Democrats they vilified to get elected.
The Governor’s original tax plan wasn’t without merit. Making every insurance provider pay their fair share of the Premium Insurance Tax was a good idea; one that is no longer in his proposal because of politics.
When Alexander cut the Gordian Knot, he did not immediately conquer Asia, he had to go to war to accomplish that end.
Growing Alabama’s economy will not happen over night, but bold leaders can accomplish great things when they decide to act and not react.
Governor Bentley wants to fix the problems with our State budget and should be given great credit for his willingness to address the problem. There may very well be tax increases that are justified; but for the moment, the situation is looking more like a battle over vanity.
The Governor is a good man, but he is a lame duck who cannot run for a third term. Hubbard is indicted on 23 felony counts of public corruption, and most are convinced he will be convicted on at least some of the charges, which will result in him leaving politics for prison.
The Governor wants long-term solutions.
I agree with him that now is the time…..but it’s not the hour.