BOMBSHELL: Lawmaker calls out Bentley for using ‘strong-arm’ tactics to push tax hikes
(Video above: State Rep. Ed Henry discusses Gov. Bentley’s tactics with Matt Murphy)
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In a bombshell interview on the Matt Murphy Show Wednesday morning, State Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) said he believes Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley was disingenuous with voters by claiming he did not realize he would feel compelled to raise taxes until after winning re-election. The sophomore legislator also said the governor has resorted to using “strong-arm tactics” in an attempt to force the legislature to support his impending proposal to raise taxes.
“I knew when we were working on last year’s budget that this coming year’s budget was going to be worse,” said Henry. “Now, I’m a lowly House member. If I could see the writing on the wall, then I have to believe that our chief executive officer of the state knew what was coming. And I believe, had he projected a year ago that these were his intentions, he probably would have had more competition in a Republican primary. There’s no way he didn’t see this coming.”
Murphy asked Henry about a story Yellowhammer broke Tuesday morning in which lawmakers, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said the governor was threatening to withhold infrastructure and community development funding from Districts whose legislators do not support his tax proposal.
“The governor has certain tools in his shed that he can work with to strong-arm legislators,” explained Henry. “Governors throughout the decades have used them. They’re typically road projects (or) other types of building projects that the governor has pretty much sole discretion to point and say, ‘It’s going to happen here or there’… He will use every tool in his shed to strong-arm the legislature into accepting his tax proposals… So what’s going to happen is people like myself… are going to have to determine whether it’s more beneficial for the people of Alabama to get some special project that maybe my city or my county has been wanting for the last ten or fifteen years, and vote for a tax increase, or is it more important for me to stand the line, hold the line on tax increases and suffer by not getting those projects. Those are the decisions that are going to be made all across the state.”
Henry was complimentary of the governor when asked about his personal experience working with him, calling him “approachable” and “easy to have a conversation with,” but indicated that Bentley’s recent change of heart on taxes may be the result of him having received some bad advice. Specifically, Henry mentioned former Democratic Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, who is now the governor’s chief of staff.
“The first four years he was making decisions based on what would get him re-elected,” said Henry. “Now I have no idea why he’s making the decisions he’s making other than maybe the advice he’s getting from people closest to him… I don’t know if the governor decided he was going to have to raise taxes, and in order to do that he needed to find a tax-and-spend type of chief of staff, or if he hired a chief of staff who convinced him that tax-and-spend was the right direction. I’m not sure which came first.”
Henry conceded that the state’s budgeting situation is difficult and will require more cuts and structural reforms, but said he believes these are the difficult decisions he and his colleagues were elected to make.
“I did not get elected to office to continue the status quo. That’s the reason our country is in the shape it’s in. The reason our state is in the state that it’s in is because people — legislators, politicians — believed they could go to Montgomery, go to Washington, do whatever they want as far as passing themselves pay raises, tax increases, but as long as they bring home the bacon, bring home the projects to their local area, they can do anything they want to in Montgomery. In 2010 we changed all that… I was not sent there to bring home the bacon.”
Henry’s full interview on the Matt Murphy Show can be heard above.
Yellowhammer asked a spokesperson for the governor if he maintains that he did not know prior to winning re-election how bad the budgeting situation was going to be, and therefore did not realize he would feel compelled to push tax increases. We also asked if the governor disputes accusations from Henry and other legislators that he is using “strong-arm” tactics, such as withholding road projects from Districts whose legislators do not support his tax proposal.
The governor’s office declined to comment.
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— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) December 3, 2014