MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Gov. Robert Bentley told the audience at the Early Childhood Education Leadership Summit Thursday that he will propose a $700 million tax hike in his State of the State address March 3rd.
“For me as a Republican governor to tell you that we’re going to raise taxes in this state, is tough,” Bentley said.
“I don’t sugarcoat it and I’m not going to sugarcoat this. We need the money,” he said.
The Governor said the increase would cover the hole in the state’s general fund budget as well as allow the state to pay back $187 million to the education budget, and $63 million back to gas taxes for road funding.
Gov. Bentley also took time to respond to the story, broken first by Yellowhammer, that he was strong-arming lawmakers into supporting his tax hike by threatening to withhold infrastructure funding from legislators who stood against him.
“I’m not trying to necessarily strong-arm anyone,” Bentley told reporters, “I’m just saying if you want highways in your district or if you want projects in your district, state dollars pay for those so you ought to be willing to vote for those [tax increases] in order to get projects in your districts.”
“I will say this,” the Governor said. “We will look more favorably on areas of the state that really do want to support our budget.”
Alabama’s state legislators all know they have a mess waiting for them when they arrive in Montgomery on March 3rd to begin the 2015 session, but opinions differ on how the hole in the general fund will be patched.
Democratic leadership is pushing for a state lottery as an alternative to tax increases, while many in the Republican caucus insist there are still reforms and cuts to be made.
Bentley is confident the legislature, which must pass and implement a budget during the 30 legislative days of the session, will come to see his side.
“If the legislators get a little weak-kneed, I’m going to have to push them a little and I’m going to do that,” the Governor said. “But we have some great legislators who understand the problem.”
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015