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(Audio) Powerful Senator says Bentley threatening lawmakers won’t work, tax hike DOA

(Video above: Matt Murphy interviews Sen. Jabo Waggoner)

One of Alabama’s most powerful state senators believes Gov. Robert Bentley’s impending $700 million tax hike proposal is dead on arrival in the Legislature when the body convenes for its 2015 session next week.

Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) was listed at No. 5 on Yellowhammer’s 2014 Power and Influence list, our yearly ranking of the state’s top movers and shakers. He is the longest-serving Republican senator and is the chairman of the Rules Committee, giving him a great deal of influence over what bills make it to the Senate floor for a vote. According to an interview on the Matt Murphy Show on Tuesday, that spells trouble for any legislation that includes a tax increase.

“There’s not a lot of enthusiasm about the governor’s desire (to raise taxes),” Waggoner said during the interview. “I think it’s going to be a very, very tough sell. In fact I’m not sure [Governor Bentley] will get a vote, if it ever even gets to the floor… I cannot see a tax increase even coming out of committee.”

Waggoner said none of the lawmakers he’s talked to have been clued in on what the governor is thinking, and many of them felt blindsided by his willingness to so quickly abandon his promise to the voters not to raise taxes.

“It was a surprise to all of us,” he said. “We all in the Republican ranks campaigned against new taxes. All the house members, all the senate members, the secretary of state, the state auditor, state treasurer — everybody campaigned on ‘no new taxes.’ It was a total surprise to all of us. We were just really shocked.”

Murphy asked if Waggoner, with his decades of experience in the legislature, would typically expect the governor to be having behind-the-scenes conversations with legislators to rally support for his agenda.

“Yes, historically, the governor, when he has a proposal like this, would get with at least the senate leadership, the house leadership,” Waggoner replied, “but I’m a member of the leadership in the senate and he has not talked to me about this, or any other bill this session.”

Murphy then turned his attention to the governor’s controversial threats to withhold infrastructure funding from Districts whose legislators do not support his tax proposal. Waggoner confirmed that many of the house members he’d spoken to said they felt threatened, but added that the governor had not tried that tactic with the senate.

“The governor actually threatened house members to vote for his tax proposal and he took credit for getting many of them elected, you know, ‘I got y’all elected so y’all owe me,'” Waggoner explained. “That was the perception of the house members I talked to… That he would pull any project — road project, or any other kind of project — from their District if he did not get their support. That’s highly unusual.”

“The question is, will it be effective?” Murphy asked.

“Uh, no. It will not,” Waggoner answered flatly. “That I can assure you.”

You can listen to the entire interview in the video above.

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