By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford
It would be an understatement to say that this year has been an odd one for Alabama politics. But nothing surprised me more than when Rep. Paul Lee, a Republican from Dothan, came up to the microphone on the last night of the legislative session that ended last week and gave a speech where he said that it was “courageous” to raise taxes, and that those who voted against raising taxes “should be ashamed of themselves.”
Yes. Rep. Paul Lee said it was courageous for him to vote to raise your taxes, and those of us who voted against tax increases should be ashamed of ourselves.
I’ve never heard anyone argue that they should be treated like some sort of a hero because they raised taxes, especially when that same person ran for office on a promise that they would never support tax increases.
Is it courageous to tell voters one thing, then do another after the election?
Is it courageous to campaign on a promise you know you can’t keep? The budget crisis we have been dealing with this year was not a secret to any legislators. In 2012, the legislature borrowed $437 million to delay this crisis until after last year’s elections. Everybody in the legislature knew this day was coming, and that these decisions were going to have to be made.
If Rep. Lee believes so strongly that raising taxes was the answer, then why did he and all these other Republican legislators campaign on promises of “no new taxes” last year?
Is it courageous to tell people that you would never raise taxes, and then less than a year later vote over and over again to raise more than $86 million in new taxes? And that’s not even including the taxes on car titles and car rentals that passed the House of Representatives but not the Senate.
Is it courageous to raise taxes on medications and hospital and nursing home beds? Is it courageous to raise taxes on the things people need to survive, but do nothing to close corporate tax loopholes and make out-of-state corporations (many of which pay little, if any, state income taxes) pay the same taxes Alabama businesses have to pay?
Is it courageous to raise taxes on cigarette smokers, and attempt to raise taxes on car titles, car rentals and even gasoline, but refuse to let the people of Alabama vote on a lottery?
Is it courageous to reallocate more than $80 million out of public education, after already cutting education by more than 20 percent over the last seven years, and use that money to pay for prisons and other non-education needs?
I couldn’t disagree more with Rep. Lee!
There is no courage in raising taxes on people living paycheck-to-paycheck. There is no courage in placing the entire tax burden on working families instead of asking out-of-state corporations to pay their fair share, and refusing to let the people vote on a lottery or comprehensive gambling bill. There certainly isn’t any courage in taking $80 million away from our children’s education and using it to pay for prisons.
What is courageous is honoring your word and being honest from the beginning about where you stand.
If Rep. Paul Lee truly believes that taxes are the answer, then he should have been honest with the voters from the beginning, and not waited until after he got elected to change his tune.
Real courage lies in standing up for the taxpayers, appreciating that they work hard for their paychecks, and should keep as much of their paychecks as possible. It doesn’t take a single ounce of courage to pass the buck off to someone else, but it does take a lot of nerve to expect people to praise you for it!
As Rep. Isaac Whorton, a Republican from Valley, wrote on his Facebook page, “…A Republican representative stood on the House floor this evening and said that those of us who voted against tax increases should be ashamed of ourselves for not stepping up to the plate to help the State of Alabama. I feel no shame in voting my conscience and voting how I think my district wanted me to vote. Nice try.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself! Rep. Paul Lee voted to raise your taxes by more than $100 million; then he voted to raid another $80 million out of education. Those aren’t votes to be proud of. Rep. Paul Lee is the one who should be ashamed.
Rep. Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives