By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, June 29, 2017, The Alabama Political Reporter (APR) had a lengthy interview with Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington (R) who is running for the Republican nomination for Governor of Alabama in next June’s major party primaries.
APR: A recent CNBC ranking of the states rated Alabama as the number 46 economy. What could you do as Governor to improve that?
Carrington: “One of the issues that needs even more focus going forward is workforce development; it could become our state’s competitive advantage. For example, Alabama has more than a half million working age adults who don’t have a high school degree. Manufacturing employers have told me that they want workers who: one, have a high school degree; two, show up for work on time; and three, can pass a drug test. Not a very high bar, but half a million working age Alabamians without a high school degree don’t qualify for these higher paying jobs. As a result, the state has too many working age adults in minimum wage jobs, preventing many of our young people from getting needed work experiences. This and other structural deficiencies, like economic development in rural areas, are solvable problems that don’t require any new taxes. My goal is to embark on a path to move Alabama’s median family income from the bottom 10% to the top 50% in the next ten years.”
APR: US Judge Myron Thompson recently ruled against the State’s troubled Department of Corrections. Should we raise taxes to build new prisons, hire more prison guards, and offer better mental health care for the prisoners or should we just live within our means and release a third of the prison population over the next four years?
Carrington: “Neither. While it is apparent that something needs to be done, I would prefer a phased-in approach, particularly in light of the fact that Commissioner Dunn said the debt would be paid with cost savings. We’ve heard that song once before with ALEA and the savings haven’t materialized. Let’s build one prison and see if the cost savings materialize before borrowing money to build the others.”
APR: President Trump is trying to pass a $trillion in new infrastructure money. At present the Alabama Department of Transportation does not have the funds available to it for the State to come up with matching funds. Should the Legislature raise gas taxes or should we sit out this next round of infrastructure spending?
Carrington: “Jefferson County did not raise taxes and is now delivering quality services with 1,500 fewer employees. Until a strategic plan is developed by every state department, I won’t entertain any new taxes with the possible exception of a gasoline tax specifically earmarked for road and bridge improvements. Instead of borrowing a one-time large sum of money though, I would prefer a pay-go plan, where monies are only spent after they are received.”
APR: Should the State legalize medical marijuana?
Carrington: “I supported Carly’s law, so youngsters could start receiving marijuana-derived CBD oil to treat seizures. But, before supporting any additional legislation, I would need to be convinced the marijuana use was specifically for medical purposes only and could not be abused. It needs to be recognized that marijuana use prevents applicants from being employed at many manufacturing plants, which is counterproductive to having a healthier economy and raising the median family income.”
APR: It seems like every day there is a new report of an indictment, an arrest, an ethics charge, or a conviction against an Alabama public official. What can we do to change Montgomery’s culture of corruption?
Carrington: “Within my first few weeks as a Jefferson County Commissioner, I had someone approach me with a Christmas gift that I felt was questionable. I politely refused it. From that day forward, the word got out and I was never approached again. It is well known that several of my predecessors as president of the county commission went to prison. The answer is for Alabamians to elect officials who have both character and competence. As for the office of Governor, I strongly believe that character without both meaningful business and government competence will lead to ineffectiveness or even worse, mischief.”
APR: Now that Bentley is gone, should the State put the Confederate flags back over the Confederate Veterans memorial?
Carrington: “It’s probably a moot point with the legislation that passed in the last session – the new commission would probably need to make that decision. With that said though, I wish we would spend more time on issues that would actually make a difference in our citizens’ quality of life, like education and jobs. Improve them and it would solve the Medicaid problem, the prison problem, the revenue problem, etc.”
APR: Should the state seek to gain control of the fishing off of our coasts?
Carrington: “My grandfather ran for Governor of Texas in the 1940s. One of his campaign issues was that the state should extend its boundaries into the gulf. So, yes, we ought to control the fishing waters off of our coast. With that said though, no government – federal, state or local – should think it needs to be involved in every facet of our lives. The Jefferson County Commission actually got out of the indigent hospital, the nursing home, animal control, the print shop and the laundry – and the citizens are better off because of it.
APR: What can Alabama do to improve mental health care across the State?
Carrington: “We need to realize that in many instances mental health is a health issue and not a criminal issue. That’s one reason our prisons are over-crowded. In Jefferson County, we joint ventured with UAB to treat some identified patients who have mental health and/or drug issues. This program, called TASC, has a success rate more than 80 percent.”
APR: Would you consider expanding Medicaid?
Carrington: “The solution to the Medicaid problem is workforce development – more people working in higher paying jobs. Governments continue to focus on entitlements instead of work. I am all for a safety net, but some people have grown accustomed to the government providing a safety hammock. “Down on your luck” is one thing; employable citizens continuing to “live off the government” is quite another. For every one who receives a dollar from the government, somebody else has to pay an additional dollar in taxes and fees.”
APR: Should the State combine the two budgets (General Fund and Education Fund) into one and decrease all of the earmarking?
Carrington: “I must admit that I once thought we needed to do that, but instead of combining the budgets, I think we should combine the revenues with a fixed percentage allocation to each budget. This would give the general fund growth revenues and would prevent any temptation to take funds from education for general fund purposes.”
On earmarking, Carrington said, “Earmarks need to be dramatically reduced. I have been told that 92 percent of the state’s dollars are earmarked. This severely restricts the allocation of funds as priorities change. With that said, I do support direct earmarks for associated services, like gas taxes for roads and bridges.”
APR: Do we need a new State Constitution?
Harrington: “Absolutely. The question is, how to do it. At one time the legislature embarked on rewriting the state constitution one article at a time. It still hasn’t been accomplished. I think now is the time to reconsider a citizen-lead constitutional convention.”
APR: Given that our schools “suck” according to the last Governor and we are only dropping in the rankings, should the State repeal the controversial college and career ready standards?
Carrington: “Within my first 30 days in office, I will appoint a committee of educators, parents and business leaders to develop a new set of educational standards to replace common core. In addition to reflecting Alabama values, the new standards will be designed to effectively prepare our students for post high school opportunities. My goal is to embark on a path to improve our K-12 education system from the bottom 10% to the top 25% in 10 years.”
APR: Do you support allowing the Poarch Creek Indians to expand their casinos to class one gaming in exchange for being able to tax the games?
The Major Party Primaries for Governor and other offices will be June 5, 2018.