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Time for Wise Counsel: Opinion

 

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

After failing to find a consensus between the Governor, the House, and the Senate, the State remains without a State General Fund Budget (SGF). After all of the acrimony, name calling, and hubris, Governor Robert Bentley still wants to raises taxes, Mike Hubbard wants to remain Speaker, and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh wants more time to create a long-term solution. 

The new rallying call coming from the Governor, is the need for leaders to rise up and stand with him to do what’s right for “The People.”

Doing what’s right, according to the Governor, is raising taxes. 

Politicians don’t like to stand up for things unless they’re popular, and raising taxes is very unpopular. Politicos like the people, they may even love the people, but only in a metaphorical sense. 

Most of the men and women who sit in the chambers of the House and Senate want to do what is right for the people, in the abstract. But, governing is not a metaphysical exercise, it’s about making difficult choices without losing the next election. Those are the unassailable, political facts.

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It is easy to believe that Gov. Bentley’s heart is in the right place. He has always said, “I love the people of Alabama, and the people of Alabama love me.” But, the people, whom the Governor says he loves, do not love the Governor like they used to. And they have a very different view on taxes.

Bentley’s advisors are not leveling with him. This tax campaign has been a terrible disaster. Every politico from Washington D.C. to Washington County knows this has been the Hindenburg of political roll-outs. Apparently, the Governor’s advisors are willing to let him go down with the ship, rather than risk their own necks by holding a mirror up to this folly.

From the beginning, the Governor has infuriated lawmakers by spouting threats and rancorous invectives. And, sure-to-form, the Governor has ignored those who would help him in favor of those who would use him. Bentley has an inconceivable habit of forgetting his friends and rewarding his enemies. 

Just this week he announced that Speaker Mike Hubbard was on his side. Now, that’s encouraging. There is nothing like having a man who is indicted on 23 felony counts of public corruption in your corner. 

At the same meeting where he revealed that Hubbard was on the team, he also unleashed more harsh words, saying that those who didn’t help him do what is right for the people by raising taxes should be beaten in the next election. 

This venomous, public discourse is not helpful, and it is especially destructive to him, because, it is Bentley’s goodness, not his smallness, that makes him powerful.

From day one, this publication has wished Gov. Bentley success. As citizens, and individuals, we have prayed for him to be blessed in his leadership and life. But, the path he is on, is becoming more surreal, and damaging to his credibility.

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Gov. Bentley doesn’t have to run for reelection in three years. But, most, if not all, of the current crop of legislators want to continue in government, and they know, or at least should  know, that anyone who votes to raise taxes will almost surely face a primary challenge. Most politicians want to help the people, but not so much that they want to be tarred and feathered by an opponent.

By and large, politicians listen to people who faithfully attend party meetings, make regular campaign contributions, and always vote. Most of these people do not want to raise taxes on iced tea, Marlboros, or wages. They want cuts, or a third way. 

The people who are going to decide the next election are the ones who have the politicians’ ears. 

Now, this doesn’t mean the State House is occupied by callous, uncaring dilettantes, au contraire, mon ami. They care deeply. Just look into their eyes as they feel your pain.

Politics is, survival first, caring second. 

Most do care, but they also know that ignoring, and thumbing your nose at the people who have the power to reelect you is political suicide.

Does this mean that Medicaid shouldn’t be fully funded, or that prison reform should be abandoned? No. 

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Does this mean that Bentley is wrong in his aim?  Of course not.

The Governor wants a long-term solution to the State’s systemic budget woes. In this he should be supported.

As for now we have a house divided, and the chasm is not closing…it’s widening. 

When the Governor says that Hubbard is going to help, it is time for a gut-check Governor. If Hubbard is your ally, then your cause is tainted, and lost.

It is time to call in wise men and women who will speak honestly before it is too late to be reasonable. That time is drawing very near.

Bill Britt
Written By

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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