Promises to keep

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 1, 2015

Gov. Robert Bentley and scores of lawmakers promised not to raise taxes throughout election season just last year. Now, Governor Bentley is breaking his promise, and he says he has been meeting with most lawmakers in an attempt to get them to break their promises, too.

Gov. Bentley spent millions of dollars on his race for re-election, and the centerpiece advertising used the slogan, “More Jobs. Less Government. No New Taxes.” Within months of these ads running all over Alabama, the governor made an about face by calling for more government and more new taxes. The people of Alabama should be incensed at such hypocrisy.

What changed?

When Robert Bentley was running for governor, he signed a no-taxes pledge saying,

“I, Robert Bentley, pledge to the taxpayers of the State of Alabama, that I will oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.” Now, these words ring hollow, and Alabamians who voted for the governor should be angry concerning this betrayal of trust.

Bentley wants to tax working people. Bentley proposes to abolish the FICA income tax deduction. Or, Bentley wants to tax every man, woman, and child who drinks a Coca-Cola. Bentley proposes a beverage tax on soft drinks, but he leaves alone beer and liquor. Bentley wants to tax cigarettes, and he wants to tax businesses all over Alabama.

All total the governor wants to stick Alabama taxpayers with another $300 million tax tab, year after year. Why? Because he wants to pay more money for Medicaid and prisons. Big broken promise.

Alabama has gotten along just fine for decades without a Coca Cola Tax or eliminating the FICA deduction. All Alabamians, and the businesses that employ them, have suffered the plight of an economy that has limped along throughout Governor Bentley’s occupation of the governor’s office. Instead of more government and more taxes, Gov. Bentley should concentrate on each of his three promises to Alabama and proactively work toward the More Jobs promise to help, rather than hinder the state.

Why all of the sudden is it imperative to create these new tax sources? The real answer is that it is not. The real answer is that the governor needs to tighten the state’s belt just like every Alabama family has had to do since 2008.

In 2012, we told Alabama not to raid the Alabama Trust Fund, but this happened anyway. State government needed to get its house in order then, but instead it raided the Trust Fund to pay for regular expenses. A bad move for our future. Now, after kicking the can down the road three years, we have a governor in panic mode trying to throw more money at Medicaid and prisons. Gov. George Wallace told me in 1983 when I was in the legislature, that Medicaid is a “black hole” that can never be filled. Now, instead of seeking non-tax solutions to fixing our out-of-whack budget, the governor is doing the opposite.

In 2012, state government took almost $500 million from the Alabama Trust Fund. Gov. Bentley and lawmakers promised to repay this money. They have not repaid a dime. In another turn of events Alabama now will receive over $1 billion in an oil spill lawsuit settlement from British Petroleum (BP). Instead of squandering this windfall the first priority needs to be repaying the Alabama Trust Fund as promised. Is Governor Bentley and are lawmakers going to break this promise, too?

Now is the time for public officials to hold true to their campaign promises. Alabama taxpayers need to hold Governor Bentley and every legislator accountable to their campaign promises. Alabama taxpayers deserve honest service from their elected officials, and keeping the most basic of promises is the first step for faith to be restored in state government.

And by the way, do not the officials owe us an explanation for all this?


John Rice

President, Alabama

Foundation for Limited Government