By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
If the legislature does not raise taxes all State General Fund (SGF) agencies will be forced to begin making cuts to programs on September 30, to compensate for the lack of revenue to replace the trust fund raid money (which has run out).
The second Special Session starts Tuesday. Gov. Robert Bentley (R) is asking for tax increases and is threatening cuts in government services if the increases are not passed.
In response to the Governor’s threats, State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) released a written statement on Monday. “The special session will cost taxpayers another $325,000, as the first special session did…Have you noticed the things that Gov. Bentley says will be cut if his tax increase package does not pass? State parks, all drivers license offices except four, Medicaid for the poor and nursing home elderly, 99 state troopers, and hunting and fishing services. All of these threatened cuts are highly visible and affect the little guys.”
Auditor Zeigler said, “Are there any threats to cut expenses of higher-up politicos, including the Governor himself? Are there threats to cut: The Governor’s fleet of airplanes and helicopters and their frequent use? The Governor’s entourage he carries around with him and their large costs, including over-time? The number of state vehicles issued to officials who do not need them for after-hours duty? The high-priced SUVs and other luxury vehicles? The ultra-high salaries of some officials? No. No cuts threatened to the Governor’s staff and to politicos. It is obvious that the Bentley advisers are targeting cuts on the little guy but none on higher-up politicos. And none on the Governor’s office itself.”
The conservative state Auditor said, “This is an obvious strategy to get citizens concerned about the cuts to pressure the legislature to pass the Bentley tax package. My prediction is it will not work. Just ask voters in Baldwin, Lawrence, Colbert and Jackson Counties and in the City of Athens. They all voted down tax increases by wide margins in the past six months. The Bentley advisers are not listening to the citizens; they only listen to Montgomery insiders.”
Zeigler continued, “Bentley is expected to call a second special session this month to pass a state general fund budget. He had vetoed a bare bones budget in the regular session. A first special session failed to pass a budget. If no general fund budget is enacted by the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year, the state cannot pay many bills, including payroll to state employees.”
Zeigler said, “These cuts are visible and impact citizens. Also notice that there are no cuts to the Governor’s operations and to political insiders.” Zeigler since being elected has frequently called himself the “Anti-Bentley.”
Gov. Bentley like the rest of the Alabama Republican Party ran on a platform of no new taxes and rightsizing state government to live within its means. Bentley abandoned that agenda shortly after being reelected and has proposed the biggest tax increases since Gov. Bob Riley’s doomed $billion Amendment One proposal in 2003 that voters soundly rejected.
Gov. Bentley was enormously popular in his first time. To this point, the second term has been far less successful: his wife is divorcing him after 50 years of marriage; conservatives are angry with him because he broke his “no new taxes pledge,” and the newspapers are attacking him for paying his top two aides exorbitant salaries “off the books” from dark money donors; while blogs and the Alabama Media Group are attacking the 72 year old Bentley for an alleged adulterous affair with a married former staffer.