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Bentley won’t expand gambling to address budget shortfall

Gov. Bentley signing bills in his office (Photo: Office of the Governor)
Gov. Bentley signing bills in his office (Photo: Office of the Governor)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Gov. Robert Bentley (R-Ala.) alarmed many conservatives this week by openly floating tax raises as a way to close the gap in the state’s general fund budget.

Now the Governor is taking a proposed tool for revenue generation out of the discussion.

“The only thing that is not on the table is gambling, we’re not proposing gambling as a solution to this problem,” the Governor told reporters Wednesday.

Bentley is personally opposed to gambling, but during the 2014 campaign, the Governor mentioned a possible compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians or a state lottery—a favorite of his gubernatorial opponent Parker Griffith—as ways to shore up state funds. A state lottery would need to be approved by voters via a constitutional amendment.

The Alabama State Legislature is set to convene on March 3rd and the Governor is expected to deliver his proposed budget the following day.

Legislators agree with Gov. Bentley on the need to patch the hole in the General Fund, but vehemently disagree on how.

“I’m not going to support any tax increase,” said state Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston), the leader of the Alabama Senate. “I look at this as a further opportunity to right-size government.”

“There’s a lot that needs to be done before you talk about raising taxes on working families,” State Senator and chairman of the General Fund Budget Committee Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) told the Decatur Daily.

While Gov. Bentley can propose a budget, and the tax increases to pay for it, the Alabama Legislature is the body tasked with passing and implementing any appropriations.

Whatever proposal the Governor ultimately sends across the street to the Legislature for consideration, it sounds like it won’t include gambling.