Will Gov. Robert Bentley serve all the people or just Grover Norquist?
During the highly contested gubernatorial campaign of 2010, Bentley was one of three candidates who signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. In the pledge, Bentley promised “to oppose and vote against tax increases.”
Norquist — who has received funding from cigarette maker Philip Morris USA, Pfizer, Microsoft and the Koch brothers — is the most valuable ally of corporate America.
Alabama’s General Fund is expected to come up short by at least $400 million when fiscal 2013 begins Oct. 1. The problem is desperate, so much so that Bentley proposed raiding the Education Trust Fund to ease the shortfall.
Several legislators have proposed an increase in the tobacco tax.
Clearly, the state needs more revenue. It has, by most measures, the lowest taxes in the nation. By almost all measures, the state has the least equitable tax structure, letting timber companies and large corporations escape much of the burden of financing the state’s operations.
We charge sales taxes on groceries for the poorest Alabamians and collect income taxes from families below poverty level, all while keeping tax rates at national lows on corporate landowners and the ultra-wealthy.
An increase in the tobacco tax would not get at the major problems, but it would at least help meet the $400 million shortfall. It would also help avoid the disastrous proposal of maintaining our regressive tax structure by reducing the quality of our education.
But Bentley has a major decision ahead of him. He signed a pledge to oppose and, if necessary, veto any tax increase.
It was a desperate ploy he signed at a time when he was not expected to win the primary.
And whatever Norquist may say, it was not a pledge to the Alabama people. It was a pledge to Norquist and his corporate allies — including tobacco companies — who have no stake in Alabama excellence.
Bentley needs to renounce the pledge and call it what it is, a betrayal of Alabamians who are weary of a state that cannot meet the expectations of its citizens.