GANG OF NINE: Meet the Alabama senators who voted against every single tax increase
The Alabama Senate on Tuesday approved $86 million in tax increases to go along with two measures aimed at reforming the state’s dysfunctional budgeting process.
The three tax increases passed by the Senate promise to bring in far less revenue than the proposals pushed by Governor Robert Bentley and House leaders. But while the majority of Republican senators viewed combining reforms with tax increases as a palatable compromise, a group of nine staunchly conservative lawmakers refused to bend, consistently voting “no” and sometimes launching into filibusters of tax bills backed by their own party.
Meet those nine senators:
Slade Blackwell (R-Mountain Brook): Blackwell is a second-term senator from Alabama’s most affluent city. He defeated a longtime incumbent to win his seat in 2010, and is frequently mentioned as a potential statewide candidate.
Paul Bussman (R-Cullman): Bussman has been one of the most vocal opponents of tax increases this year, but that’s nothing new for the conservative dentist. Bussman was one of the few GOP legislators who was openly opposed to borrowing money from the Alabama Trust Fund in 2012, a move that many proponents said was meant to head off the kind of tax increases passed this week.
Rusty Glover (R-Semmes): Glover is a retired school teacher in his third term in the senate after serving one term in the House. He is widely expected to run for Lt. Governor in 2018.
Bill Hightower (R-Mobile): Hightower is serving in his first full term in the senate after winning a special election in 2013. He made waves earlier this year by proposing a simplified 2.75 percent flat tax. He has a business background and résumé a mile long, including stints at multiple Fortune 100 companies.
Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison): The Marine and former NASA employee became the face of the anti-tax movement this year when he put up a massive billboard in his senate district promising he would not let Governor Bentley raise taxes on his constituents. The Bentley administration retaliated by eliminating roughly $100 million in road projects from Holtzclaw’s district. He didn’t back down.
Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville): Sanford took to affectionately referring to this group of senators as the “Gang of Nine” on Facebook. The north Alabama senator with a libertarian streak has frequently shown himself to be an independent thinker whose not afraid to buck leaders from both parties. He carried a major budget reform bill during the special session that could have helped avoid tax hikes, but it did not gain enough momentum to pass.
Clay Scofield (R-Arab): Scofield is the youngest member of the Senate and perhaps the most ideologically conservative. “Without serious structural reforms to the way we budget in our state, I couldn’t support taxing our people more,” he told Yellowhammer Tuesday evening. “Even with these increases, I believe we will be back in the same situation as early as 2017. We need real reform.”
Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville): Shelnutt picked a heckuva session to start his Senate career. After being elected in November of 2014, he has immediately endured one of the most tumultuous periods in the five-year tenure of the Republican supermajority. His willingness to hold the line on taxes in the midst of intense pressure shows his mild-mannered, quiet personality should never be mistaken for weakness.
Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City): Williams is an Army Airborne Ranger and currently holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve. He served two combat tours in the Global War on Terror, one each in Afghanistan and Iraq, before being elected to the Senate in 2010. “At a time when the economy is still recovering the people of Alabama sent more than enough of their hard earned dollars to Montgomery to cover all state expenses,” he told Yellowhammer on Tuesday. “I can see no reason to ask them to send more.”
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— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) June 9, 2015