The Wire

  • Black Bear Sightings Continue to Increase in Alabama

    Excerpt from an Outdoor Alabama news release:

    Add Jackson, Limestone, Marshall, Morgan and St. Clair counties to the growing list of black bear sightings in Alabama in 2018. In recent years, bears have also been recorded in Chambers, Elmore, Jefferson, Lee, Macon and Tallapoosa counties. These recent sightings are more evidence of the state’s expanding black bear population.

    Biologists from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources say the increase in sightings may be due to a combination of factors including changes in bear distribution, habitat fragmentation, seasonal movement and the summer mating season. However, most spring and summer bear sightings are of juvenile males being pushed out of their previous ranges by their mothers and other adult males.

    Historically, a small population of black bears have remained rooted in Mobile and Washington counties. Baldwin, Covington and Escambia counties on the Florida border host yet another population of bears. In northeast Alabama, bears migrating from northwest Georgia have established a small but viable population.

    “While seeing a black bear in Alabama is uncommon and exciting, it is no cause for alarm,” said Marianne Hudson, Conservation Outreach Specialist for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF). “There has never been a black bear attack on a human in Alabama.”

    Black bears are typically secretive, shy animals that will avoid human interaction. Occasionally, a curious bear will explore a human-populated area in search of food.

    “If you are lucky enough to see a bear, simply leave it alone,” Hudson said.

  • Rep. Byrne Releases Statement on Russia

    From a Bradley Byrne news release:

    Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) issued the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, this morning in Helsinki.

    Congressman Byrne said: “I applaud President Trump’s decision to start a dialogue with President Putin and I’m glad he is making it a priority. However, we must remember that Russia is not an ally – economically or militarily. They are an adversary. The United States should not tolerate actions by the Russians that intervene in our domestic affairs or pose a threat to our national security.”

  • Alabama Recreational Red Snapper Season Closes July 22

    Excerpt from an Outdoor Alabama news release:

    The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division (MRD) announces the closure of Alabama state waters to the harvest of red snapper by private anglers and state-licensed commercial party boats at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, July 22, 2018. The quota of 984,291 pounds issued under NOAA Fisheries’ Alabama Recreational Red Snapper Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) is expected to be met by the closure date.

    “Alabama anglers fished extremely hard on the good weather days during the season,” said Marine Resources Director Scott Bannon. “That level of effort, coupled with larger average-sized fish harvested this year as compared to last year, resulted in a daily harvest rate two times higher than 2017, which prompted an earlier than anticipated closure.

    “The purpose of the EFP was to demonstrate Alabama’s ability to establish a season and monitor landings within a fixed quota and I think we have shown we can do that,” said Bannon.

    Anglers are reminded of the following:

    — Possession of red snapper in Alabama waters while state waters are closed is prohibited regardless of where the fish were harvested.
    — Alabama anglers may fish in federal waters off the coast of Alabama (outside of 9 nm) and land in a state that is open to the landing of red snapper, but they must adhere to the open state’s rules and not transit in Alabama state waters with red snapper on board.
    — The season for federally-permitted charter for-hire vessels will close at 12:01 a.m. July 22.

3 years ago

Bentley shock memo predicts parts of govt. will ‘cease to exist’ if taxes aren’t raised

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. — Yellowhammer has obtained a memo Gov. Bentley sent to state lawmakers Tuesday afternoon detailing what the administration believes will happen if the legislature chooses to make cuts, rather than raise taxes.

The memo is as death and doom as it gets, predicting the EPA will take over the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), 13 Trooper posts will be closed, and 33 of the state’s 78 stand-alone Drivers License posts will be shuttered.

The court system’s operations would “cease to exist in [their] current form,” and thousands of prisoners would have to be relocated into even smaller facilities.

Perhaps the most stark numbers are the hundreds of millions of dollars in matching funds from the federal government that would be forgone if the state does not come up with its part in Medicaid and the Department of Human Resources.

The governor’s office has insisted their recent public statements are sincere attempts to educate the public and legislators about the potential impacts of budget cuts, but others have accused the administration of fear mongering.

The administration recently instructed case workers to tell elderly Medicaid Waiver Program participants their services are in imminent danger of being cut. Sen. Harri Anne Smith (I-Slocomb) called it “the lowest thing I’ve seen in all the years I’ve served.”

On Yellowhammer Radio recently, host Cliff Sims called the administration’s threats to close state parks “bogus.”

“It’s a political scare tactic, and I’m telling you, I believe they ought to be ashamed of themselves,” he said.

Conservative talk show host Matt Murphy on Wednesday compared the latest memo to the dire predictions the Obama administration made leading up to the 2013 federal government shutdown.

“Robert Bentley has become Barack Obama,” Murphy intoned.

Legislators insist the dire predictions are premature, as they are still in the fact-finding phase of the budgeting process.

General Fund budget chairmen Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) have asked agencies to show them what potential cuts would look like.

“Legislators need to know the possible impact if we had just a budget based on cuts and the governor is in a better position to define what the cuts might mean as far as agencies being able to perform their missions,” Sen. Orr said, adding that the House General Fund committee will consider the budget beginning next week.

The Governor has spent much of the last month touring the state asking businesses to support his plan for higher taxes, but this week’s memo is perhaps the first time many in the public have seen all the proposed cuts in one place.

The memo can be read in full below, but it is important to remember that this it outlines what cuts could look like if there is no priority given to some agencies and programs over others; it is simply a reflection of across-the-board cuts.

Click here to read Governor Bentley’s memo.

3 years ago

Alabama’s largest employer is the government

YH Government Jobs
According to a report by’s Leada Gore, more Alabamians are employed by the state and federal governments than by any category in the private sector.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics information used in the report, 19.7 percent of Alabamians are employed by either the federal or state government.

Here are the other sectors that employ Alabamians:

Trade, transportation and utilities – 19.4 percent
Manufacturing – 13 percent
Education and health services – 11.8 percent
Leisure and hospitality – 9.4 percent
Financial activities – 5 percent
Other services – 4.2 percent
Construction – 4 percent
Information – 1.2 percent
Mining – .6 percent

These numbers will undoubtedly call into question the assertion from some in state government that there is nothing left in Alabama’s government to reform or cut.

3 years ago

Heritage Economist: Bentley should abolish state income tax, not push tax hikes

(Video Above: Heritage Foundation Chief Economist Steve Moore discusses Gov. Bentley tax hike proposal)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In video for the Alabama Policy Institute (API), Heritage Foundation Chief Economist Steve Moore says Governor Bentley’s proposed tax increases are the wrong way to increase revenue for the state, and in fact will only serve to drive businesses and workers—the real sources of growth—away from the state.

“When states raise their taxes, especially when they raise their tax rates, that it actually leads to jobs leaving the state, it leads to higher unemployment, it leads to income decline in the state,” Moore said. “The problem with the Alabama budget right now is that the state is not growing fast enough, not enough jobs are being created. If you raise taxes on the business creators and on the workers, and on the investors, you’re going to get less businesses and you’re going to get less workers, and less investors. Under that kind of circumstance, you’re actually going to have higher unemployment, so I don’t get the logic behind raising taxes to try to balance the budget.”

Instead Moore recommends a structurally lower tax system, including making Alabama the 10th state to abolish the state income tax.

“The goal of Alabama should be to be more like Texas, not to be more like New York, where taxes keep going up year after year, and jobs and businesses keep leaving,” Moore quipped.

API Vice President Katherine Robertson also expressed concerns on Tuesday that the Governor’s proposed tax increases are not “dead on arrival” in the legislature, as was previously hoped.

“As the Alabama Legislature considers various proposals for closing the budget gap in our state General Fund, API continues to push for reforms to the very programs that are causing repeated budget shortfalls as an alternative to raising taxes,” Robertson said.

API is publishing two new research papers in the coming weeks, focusing on cost-saving reforms the legislature can consider in place of the Governor’s tax increases.

“Advertising higher taxes as the only option for closing the budget gap without cutting government services presents a false choice,” said API’s press release accompanying the video. “Rather, the current budget crisis should serve as an impetus for substantive reforms that tackle the real drivers behind the shortfall and will provide the state financial stability for the long-term. Alabama’s lawmakers should continue on in this worthy pursuit and stay true to their campaign promises.”

Pieces of Governor Bentley’s proposed $541 million tax increase have Republican sponsors in the legislature, but none of the tax hikes have been brought before a committee to this point. The legislature is expected to begin working on the budget next week, when they return from Spring Break.

3 years ago

Newly-elected ALGOP chairman calls for more reforms, not tax increases

ALGOP Chairwoman Terry Lathan (Photo screen captured from video)

ALGOP Chairwoman Terry Lathan (Photo screen captured from video)
ALGOP Chairwoman Terry Lathan (Photo screen captured from video)

MOBILE, Ala. — Alabama Republican party chairwoman Terry Lathan, a Mobile native, sat down with Mobile CBS affiliate WKRG earlier this week to discuss her thoughts on the Governor’s $541 million tax increase proposal.

“No new taxes. That’s pretty much the bread and butter of our party,” Lathan said during the interview.

“Our state has been called the ‘reddest’ state in America, and we’re proud of that. We’re not going to back away from that.”

Lathan believes that the fiscal problems facing the state today are the result of bad policy enacted during the 136 years of Democratic control of the state.

“Republicans have only been in charge the last four years,” she said, “and we have done some phenomenal things in just four years.”

The ALGOP chairwoman went on the praise the work by the Governor and State Legislature to “right size” state government since being elected in 2010.

“It’s my understanding in four years, the Republican legislature, along with Governor Bentley, has cut $4 billion,” Lathan said. “That is amazing. According to some of the legislators that I’ve spoken to, that they’re quite finished doing that yet.”

The Alabama State Legislature convened for the 2015 session Tuesday, and already has a full slate of reforms on its agenda.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard has said he will give the Governor’s proposal a fair hearing, but is doubtful it will pass as is.

“I don’t see that the Governor’s package will pass in its entirety, and you know it never does,” Hubbard said in a recent interview with radio talk show host Matt Murphy, adding that the Governor can only propose a budget while it is the Legislature’s job to introduce and pass a bill.

“We have some ideas and some things that we can do, that also includes, quite frankly, shrinking government even more, and making it more efficient and more consolidation.”

Similarly, Alabama Senate Republican proposals focus on consolidating state agencies and departments, making continued adjustments to Medicaid, and reforming the prison system.

With the State Legislature and ALGOP leadership considering a completely different approach than the Governor’s to shoring up the $265 million hole in the general fund budget, chances that the state’s executive branch will get what it wants are looking increasingly slim.

3 years ago

Alabama Free Market Alliance launches online petition to stop Bentley tax hike

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

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Former state senator Scott Beason is no longer in the legislature, but his latest move proves he’s far from out of the fight.

Beason and the Alabama Free Market Alliance, where he is now senior policy advisor, on Wednesday launched a petition at calling on Alabamians to hold Governor Bentley accountable to the “no new taxes” promises he made during the 2014 campaign.

“One of the things I’m starting on right off the bat is working against taxes,” Beason told Yellowhammer Wednesday. “AFMA is a low tax, low regulation, pro-economic growth group and we want to help people understand economic issues and how they affect them.”

Beason was unimpressed by the Governor’s characterization of his $541 million tax increase as a “bold” plan for state government.

“Bold leadership, in my mind, would be to un-earmark the budgets, to go to one budget, and let this new legislature prioritize spending,” Beason said. “Straightening out 140 years of state government debacles is very difficult, I understand that. It’s very difficult if a whole department has to go away because it’s not part of the proper role of government.”

During his time in the state legislature, Beason was no stranger to fighting tax hikes. In 2011, then-Senator Beason blocked Jefferson County from passing an amendment to the state constitution re-establishing an occupational tax.

“They told me it was going to shut down the county government, but I just went and got my tag renewed last week and they’re still alive and kicking,” Beason said Wednesday.

(More after the photo)

Scott Beason discusses his plans for life after the Alabama senate in the Yellowhammer News offices (Photo: Yellowhammer)
Scott Beason discusses his plans for life after the Alabama senate in the Yellowhammer News offices (Photo: Yellowhammer)

As policy advisor with AFMA, Beason’s sights aren’t only set on what’s happening on the state level.

“There are so many things coming down from the federal government, regulations on business are growing every day,” he said. “The fact that every business owner probably violates some federal law or regulation every day because they don’t even know it exists is ridiculous.”

Between EPA regulations and other increased regulatory burdens on business owners, Beason warns that what happens at the federal level won’t only make life more difficult and expensive for business owners, it will have a significant impact on consumers, too.

“These things are a real risk. It’s not just causing the utility company to pay more, it’s causing you and I to pay more. Even though the federal government thinks it can hide it in your power bill, it’s still a tax increase.”

In 2013, Yellowhammer named AFMA one of its top 5 conservative groups in the state.

AFMA Chairman Paul Reynolds is also Alabama’s National Committeeman on the Republican National Committee.

Back here at home, Reynold’s group fills a void for Alabama conservatives looking for content online, especially on Facebook where the group has over 13,000 “likes” and posts a steady stream of infographics and articles.

Article titles that will give you a sense of what to expect from AFMA include, “ObamaCare regulations are 8 times longer than the Bible,” “Attention Alabama AARP: stop pushing Obama’s environmental agenda,” and “Stop promoting ObamaCare in Alabama’s schools.”

AFMA publishes a “Watch List,” that is somewhat of a counter to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hate list.” Groups who made the AFMA Watch List include the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Alabama Association for Justice, Alabama Arise and the Alabama Environmental Council.

Beason plans on working with AFMA to make Alabama a more business-friendly and economically free state. He envisions making economic policy so easily understood that it becomes a part of every day conversations.

But his first undertaking is getting as many people as possible to sign the petition.

“That’s how you build a society that’s plugged in and knows what’s going on.”

3 years ago

Study: Bentley bank tax hike will cost Alabama consumers millions

Birmingham Banks (Flickr User evokilla)
Birmingham Banks (Flickr User evokilla)
Birmingham Banks (Flickr User evokilla)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — When Governor Bentley rolled out his $541 million tax increase proposal last week, he estimated that $1 million of that increase would come from eliminating the tax credit financial institutions receive against the Financial Institution Excise Tax (FIET). But while eliminating the FIET exemption is but a very small part of Bentley’s plan, banks around the state estimate that it will cost them — and ultimately their customers — far more than the relatively paltry sum the tax increase will bring into the General Fund.

In a newly released report by the Alabama Bankers Association, the group writes that “if the Governor’s estimate is accurate — and ABA thinks it’s too low — eliminating this exemption would actually cost banks a total of approximately $4.25 million per year.”

And the ABA’s President and CEO Scott Latham is adamant the tax increase won’t only hurt banks, consumers will feel a pinch from the hike, too.

“Increased taxes… will weaken our efforts to provide cost-effective banking services to individuals, small businesses and industries,” Latham told Yellowhammer. “Ultimately, it is the consumer who stands to lose the most.”

Alabama’s FIET law and accompanying exemption dates back to 1935, when the state government gave FIET payers a tax credit to offset any future tax increases from the state. According to the ABA’s report, banks could have been shielded from new taxes levied by the state through federal law, but they agreed to the imposition of the FIET with the condition that they would not be subject to future taxes passed by the state legislature. This agreement gave banks a FIET tax credit for any sales, use or utility taxes paid by the bank when they were later made law.

The ABA claims eliminating this exemption would not only go back on an 80-year long agreement, it would hurt local banks much more than the Governor’s price tag suggests.

The ABA also points out that if the Governor was seeking to make the tax system more fair, as he has claimed, he would actually remove a little-known burden imposed on Alabama’s banks through the Business Privilege Tax (BPT).

“Though all businesses in the state, including banks, must pay the BPT, a non-bank or non-insurance company taxpayer will never pay more than $15,000 in BPT taxes in a year,” the ABA said. “The maximum threshold for a bank, on the other hand, is $3 million. Consider this: if the same $15,000 maximum threshold applied to all BPT taxpayers, banks would collectively pay about 86 percent less in annual BPT taxes.”

3 years ago

Marine Senator who Bentley administration attacked for anti-tax billboard speaks out

YH Holtzclaw
MADISON, Ala. — State Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) on Monday made his first public appearance since the Bentley administration shuttered $100 million in road projects in his district as retaliation for the senator taking out a billboard opposing Bentley’s proposed tax hike.

In the press conference, Sen. Holtzclaw said there was nothing about the billboard that was intended to be derogatory toward the governor personally.

“The billboard is a statement of facts and as a result, more people across the state are fully aware of the proposed tax increase,” Holtzclaw said. “This is not a fight about Gov. Bentley. This is about opposing ideologies on how to fix our budget crisis.”

Sen. Holtzclaw added, “you cannot get a more generic, black-and-white message than what I put up.”

Last week, Alabama Department of Transportation Director John Cooper told Yellowhammer the department placed several road projects in Sen. Hotlzclaw’s district on hold in response to the billboard. Cooper added that the Governor was aware of his actions.

“It’s not something we’ve made a habit of doing, but in this case we felt like the billboard was simply a step too far,” Cooper said. “If Sen. Holtzclaw feels that strongly about taxes, we felt certain he would not like a lot of tax money being spent in his District.”

Governor Bentley briefly addressed the holdup of highway funds for Sen. Holtzclaw’s district before his speech proposing $541 million in tax increases on Friday.

“The project in Madison County and Limestone County at some point will be resumed,” Gov. Bentley said. “But I also want to say this. We have serious problems in this state. And for a state senator to be critical of solutions to a problem that truly exists before he has even seen any of the solutions is irresponsible.”

The Governor is expected to give further details on his $541 million tax hike during the State of the State of Address at 6:30pm Tuesday evening.


3 years ago

Study: Bentley’s tobacco tax hike would do long-term damage to Alabama’s economy

Tobacco Farmers (Photo: Flickr user: vagabondblogger)
Tobacco Farmers (Photo: Flickr user: vagabondblogger)
Tobacco Farmers (Photo: Flickr user: vagabondblogger)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — According to a new study, Governor Bentley’s $0.82 tax increase on cigarettes could weaken economic growth, cause the government to become reliant on uncertain revenues, and unduly burden Alabama’s low-income earners.

The study, commissioned by the Phillip Morris Company but using data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Tax Foundation, asserts that Alabama’s adult smokers already pay “their fair share,” and increasing the state’s “sin tax” on cigarettes would do more harm to the state government, and Alabamians, than good.

Here are the five reasons the study says the tax increase would harm Alabama:

1. Uncertain Revenue
Total state taxes paid on cigarette sales in Alabama have declined 2.4% a year for the last ten years. If this trend continues or accelerates, the Alabama government will collect less revenue from cigarette excise taxes over time and this will result in large funding gaps.

2. Weakens Economic Growth
The historic economic crisis led to exceptionally high levels of unemployment and eliminated trillions of dollars of wealth from the American economy. Despite recent improvements, according to the U.S. Census, “in 2013, real median household income was 8.0 percent lower than in 2007, the year before the most recent recession.” Tax increases would weaken the already fragile economy by suppressing consumer spending, straining household budgets, and curbing retailer sales.

3. Harms Retailers
According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, cigarettes are the top revenue generator, accounting for 31.8% of in-store sales nationwide. Increasing the excise tax could hurt legitimate retailers when adult smokers shift purchases across state lines or to other outlets, such as the internet. This would negatively affect Alabama’s 7,180 retailers.

4. Burdens Low-Income Earners
Cigarette excise taxes are regressive because they most negatively affect lower-income adult smokers. Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34.0% of adults in Alabama who earn less than $15,000 are smokers, whereas only 13.6% of adults who earn $50,000 or more are smokers.
Raising taxes will unfairly further burden low-income earners.

5. Increases Illegal Smuggling
An excise tax increase could provide incentives for smuggling and other contraband activities, resulting in lost tax revenues. In 2014, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives said “$7 billion to $10 billion in state and federal tax revenue is lost each year because of [cigarette] smuggling, up from $5 billion a few years ago…’”

Increasing Alabama’s per-pack cigarette tax $0.82 to a total of $1.25 would require the pack-a-day smoker to pay an increased $304 a year, for a total tax burden of $1,238.

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 11.54.40 AM

According to data from the CDC, Alabamians who earn $15,000 or less a year are 2.5 times more likely to be smokers than Alabamians who earn $50,000 annually.

In fiscal year 2014 alone, Alabama’s smokers paid $674.6 million in federal and state taxes on cigarettes. The state received $126.9 million of the revenue while state and local sales taxes and local excise taxes made up another $145.7 million. The rest is remitted to the federal government.

All of this adds up to the tax constituting an undue burden on low income smokers, according to the study. This heightened burden would divert money that would otherwise be spent on food, clothing, medical care, and other necessities from entering the private market.

Additionally, the study argues increasing the cost of cigarettes in Alabama would only push smokers to buy in neighboring states, where excise taxes will and prices will be lower.

states cigarette excise

“Alabama adult smokers could save $1.37 per pack or $501 annually by purchasing cigarettes in Georgia where the average price is only $5.10 per pack,” the study says. “As adult consumers shift purchases to other states, the government will collect less revenue than expected from a cigarette tax increase.”

The Governor made increasing the excise tax on cigarettes and tobacco a central part of his tax proposal, constituting a whopping $205 million of the $541 million plan, but the study suggests that such a large revenue increase projection is likely too good to be true.

The study emphasizes that revenue from excise taxes on cigarettes has declined 2.4% annually for the last decade, while government spending has increased at a clip of 3.6% per year over the same time period.

According to the study, 91% of tobacco excise taxes introduced between fiscal years 2009 and 2013 failed to live up to the revenue increases promised when they were instituted.

“If Alabama relies on a cigarette excise tax to fund government spending,” the study says, “it will create long-term funding shortfalls that will have to be paid for with other budget revenues or tax increases.”

3 years ago

Defiant Hubbard says there’s no way he’ll step down as Alabama House Speaker

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard speaks at a press conference Oct. 21, 2014
Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard speaks at a press conference Oct. 21, 2014

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard took to the airwaves Monday morning to push back against growing calls for him to resign his post.

Last week, several emails between Speaker Hubbard and other politicians, lobbyists, and businessmen in the state were made public when they were filed by the State’s prosecution team. The prosecution believes the emails support their allegations that Hubbard used his official office for personal gain. Hubbard’s defense team criticized the release of the emails for being “bizarre, improper, and non-responsive.”

RELATED: 10 things we learned from emails produced by Hubbard prosecution

During an interview on The Dale Jackson Show Monday morning, Hubbard characterized the prosecution’s decision to release the documents as little more than an attempt to embarrass him.

“I’m deeply disappointed that those involved in this political and personal inquisition of me exhibited such a stunning disregard for the privacy of my business associates and personal friends,” the Speaker said. “Nobody wants to have their private and personal information broadcast on the internet.”

“By them doing it,” he continued, “it served no purpose other than to invade my private personal matters.”

Hubbard defended the emails, particularly those between him and governor-turned-lobbyist Bob Riley, as the private conversations of longtime friends who share something of a father-son relationship.

“You know, everyone has difficult times in their life. I’m sure you have, too, and all your listeners,” Hubbard told Jackson. “When you do, you reach out to someone that is a long-time trusted friend, that is a mentor that you seek advice. That shouldn’t be dumped out for every body to look at, because it can be taken totally out of context.”

The Speaker contends that the entire ordeal has been nothing more than an attempt by a “rogue prosecutor” to smear his — and his friends’ — reputation.

“Nowhere has there ever been any accusation that I said, ‘Okay, now if you do this for me, then I will do this back for you,'” Hubbard explained. “They’re not even saying that I did that.”

“I’m looking forward to us being able to turn the tables and being able to show the prosecutorial misconduct that has taken place,” he added, “and when we do, I believe it’s going to sicken everyone.”

In the emails released by the prosecution, Hubbard at times indicated that financial struggles had compelled him to consider leaving politics to focus on his business. Gov. Riley told him at one point that he needed to, “Quit telling people you may have to step down as Speaker due to financial concerns,” and later advised Hubbard that he may have to choose between his political career and making “a lot of money,” but may not be able to do both.

But Hubbard told Jackson Monday that he was never seriously considering vacating the Speakership, and is far from considering it now.

He went on to accuse the prosecutor of leaking information to the press, as he has contended numerous times since his indictment, noting that the article covering the the story was published just 23 minutes after the documents were filed.

“I mean, I don’t believe the guy is that quick at being able to read through and sift information and write a story,” the Speaker said. “It’s pretty suspect.”

Jackson and Hubbard went on to discuss the upcoming legislative session and the House GOP’s “Alabama First” agenda.

“We want to be in a position where we can put Alabama first,” Hubbard said, “first in education, first in economic development, first in creating new jobs, and also first in making sure that the rights and the conservative beliefs of Alabamians is put first before we receive these mandates from Washington D.C.”

Jackson asked the Speaker how he felt the Governor’s proposed $584 million tax hike would fare in the State Legislature.

“I don’t see that the Governor’s package will pass in its entirety, and you know it never does,” Hubbard responded, adding that the Governor can only propose a budget while it is the Legislature’s job to introduce and pass a bill.

So, how does the Speaker propose to address the approximately $265 million general fund shortfall?

“We have some ideas and some things that we can do, that also includes, quite frankly, shrinking government even more, and making it more efficient and more consolidation.”

The Alabama State Legislature convenes Tuesday.

You can listen to Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s entire interview with Dale Jackson by following this link.

Defiant Hubbard says there’s no way he’ll step down as Alabama House Speaker

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Defiant Hubbard says there’s no way he’ll step down as Alabama House Speaker

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Facing pressure to raise taxes, Alabama legislators must decide what their legacy will be (Opinion)

YH Dont Tread on Me Flag

Lately, Alabamians have struggled to discern any difference between what they thought they voted against in November and what they might be getting in the coming months. A commitment to oppose tax increases is now being replaced with a “bold” move to increase taxes, without any reference as to how this could impact bringing new jobs to the state. Along those same lines, getting Alabamians back to work and keeping able-bodied individuals out of a dependency program is now being abandoned for attempts to increase the number of Alabamians on Medicaid through expansion, despite the fact that 75% of those made eligible through expansion would indeed be able-bodied individuals with no disabilities and no dependent children.

Facing a budget shortfall and variety of proposed solutions, it appears that the first session of the new quadrennium will be a true test of fortitude within the legislature. It would be naïve to ignore the pressure on our legislators to give in and renege on their promises to voters. In fact, some legislators have already been threatened with decreased funding for their districts if they don’t.

Nonetheless, this is nearly the same group of individuals who offered their handshake with Alabama in 2010– to create jobs and economic opportunities, to control wasteful spending, and to block the power grab coming from Washington, D.C. With this agenda as the foundation, significant progress was made over the last four years that must be built upon. To backslide in the face of mounting budget pressures and mixed signals from the executive branch would be a massive defeat.

Voters reelected this majority, and even expanded it, because they share the principles upon which this majority campaigned and believe that Alabama is headed in a good direction. Had they wanted the failed policies of Washington, voters would have selected candidates more closely aligned with the President.

The new legislature must now decide what its legacy will be. It should view the crises of the moment as an opportunity to pursue real reforms, to make the tough choices that have, in the past, been viewed as politically impossible. Rather than opt for the least difficult or disagreeable ways to fill the budget gap, the slow leaks of Medicaid, corrections, and pensions must be plugged and automated spending through earmarks should be reexamined.

“Free money” from a federal government that glorifies government dependency should be rejected; and instead, cost-saving reforms to our existing Medicaid program should be pursued. The false choice of new taxes or a reduction in government services should be dismissed, given that Alabama’s ratio of public to private sector jobs is the 10th highest in the country with costs of employee benefits that continue to rise. Opportunities to expand competitive contracting or privatize non-essential government functions should be given new consideration. State-owned real property should be more effectively utilized, as other states have generated millions of dollars in new revenue as a result of improved property management.

In his list of “Ten Conservative Principles,” Russell Kirk noted, “[a]ny public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity.” Some of the proposals being floated may bring about a temporary advantage and others may even be popular, the negative effects of which would not be seen during the careers of many of our current legislators. Nonetheless, principled leaders should not turn a blind eye to the impact that short-sighted plans will have on the generations of Alabamians who will follow them.

As voters, we must be on guard against actions that are out of sync with what we were promised in November. We must also support those legislators seeking to do the right thing and encourage them to stay the course, even in the face of changing political headwinds.

Caleb Crosby is the President and Katherine G. Roberts is the Vice President of the Alabama Policy Institute.

3 years ago

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

Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills)

(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.