Bentley enlists team of lobbyists to push tax plan, frustrating legislators kept in the dark
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) reportedly met with approximately 20 lobbyists in a closed-door meeting Thursday to plead for their help in advocating for $300 million in tax increases, prompting several legislators to express their frustration that the governor is communicating with lobbyists before lawmakers about the upcoming second Special Session.
Governor Bentley, who has historically expressed disdain with the role lobbyists play in the legislative process, told AL.com he “may not like their role but they play a big role in what happens and right now I need them at the table to help me help people who will be hurt if we don’t act to solve this budget crisis.”
What those lobbyists heard Thursday is reportedly not significantly different from what the governor proposed for the first Special Session—a combination of moving Use Tax revenues from the Education budget to the General Fund and tax increases.
The governor also told those present he’s going to call legislators back to Montgomery for a second Special Session, but he isn’t going to let them know when.
The first Special Session ended without an agreement between the House and Senate on a General Fund budget, as the House and Senate were unable to move even one of the governor’s proposals, and leadership differed on how to distribute cuts between agencies.
The starting date for the second Special Session has not yet been announced, but is expected to begin in September. The state is constitutionally mandated to have its budgets in place by the beginning of the new fiscal year, October 1st.
Alabama Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison), in a post on Facebook Thursday evening spoke his frustration with the governor’s tactic.
“In case you missed this, according to AL. Com, Gov. Bentley met Thursday with about 20 lobbyists in his office to discuss his efforts to persuade legislators to solve the state’s budget crisis by voting to increase taxes.
The article goes on to share – The group also received a briefing on the outlines of what Bentley hopes to accomplish in a second special session likely to be called sometime in September to try to solve the problem.
Sure glad AL. Com reported this, how else would I, a legislator that actually has a vote, know when the Gov plans to call the 2nd Special Session and what his plan is?!?”
Sen. Holtzclaw told Yellowhammer Friday morning that he sees the entire situation as a “breakdown of communication.”
“There are 140 members of the legislature, and we all have lives, we all have commitments, whether it’s jobs or other responsibilities… I’m looking for leadership to be conducive to solving this problem. A big part of solving the problem is communication, and saying, ‘I’m going to call them back, I’m just not going to tell them when,’ certainly isn’t helping.”
Representative Phil Williams (R-Huntsville) expressed similar dissatisfaction on his own social media.
Ugly story, ugly story indeed.
I am happy this story was printed or I would not have known.
My guess is that Governor Bentley spent most of the meeting asking lobbyists to ‘buy’ votes for the $50,000,000 hotel project at the beach that he supports.
Color me underwhelmed and even more frustrated.
Yellowhammer reached out to the governor’s office for comment, but had not heard back by press time.
Like this article? Hate it? Follow me and let me know how you feel on Twitter!
— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015