By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, October 13, Rep. Darrio Melton (D-Selma) responded to Governor Bentley’s proposal to reopen rural DMV offices: “Today, Governor Bentley offered a plan to re-open DMV offices across the State, but with a huge catch: rural and Black legislators must commit to vote for “permanent revenue,” which means tax increases.”
Melton said, “Not 24 hours ago, I wrote an opinion piece about the way the Governor has put working Alabamians between a rock and a hard place, and it seems like he read the article and doubled down. By holding the DMVs over the heads of “rural and Black” lawmakers, Bentley is showing his true motive behind the DMV closures: intimidation and coercion to force those with little to bargain to bend to his will and vote to raise taxes. No deal, Governor.”
Gov. Bentley has reportedly promised to re-open the driver’s license offices in 31 counties with a bridge loan by executive order IF the legislature will commit to passing permanent tax increases on the people of Alabama in the 2016 legislative session next February.
The Chair of the Rural Caucus, Rep. David Standridge (R-Cleveland) said, “While the Rural Caucus appreciates the governor working on options, we will not commit to sight unseen tax increases. We are willing to work for a reasonable solution.”
State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) said, “Since closing the 31 driver license offices saves only $100,000, I can show him where to save more than that — the governor’s aircraft fleet, entourage, $250,000 to take his entourage to the National Governors Conference, and perks for politicos.”
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) claims that the cuts were necessary due to an $11 million cut to their State General Fund (SGF) appropriation. Legislators point out that ALEA’s unilateral decision in January to raise driver’s license renewals will generate another $11 million thus the agency was level funded and there was no need for cutting the 31 offices where a state trooper visited just once a week.
Rep. Melton said that there are other ways to find the $100,000 other than tax increases. “Take Medicaid expansion money, look for avenues for elective revenue such as a state lottery, and close corporate tax loopholes to enforce the laws that are already on the books, but stop looking at working men and women as your first option for raising taxes,” Rep. Melton said.
A very diverse and bipartisan group that includes: Melton, Zeigler, Standridge, Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton, State Senator Paul Bussman, State Senator Hank Sanders and the Rev. Jesse Jackson have all roundly criticized the decision by the Bentley Administration and ALEA officials.