Alabama Scene

Governor fires opening campaign volley?



By Bob Martin

Gov. Bentley said over the weekend that he doesn’t believe the world is going to end if Alabama doesn’t get new taxes – something he was persuaded to believe in 2003 when Bob Riley pushed through the Legislature a proposed constitutional amendment to raise taxes. Alabama voters rejected the proposal by a 2-1 margin.

Bentley, then a freshman member of the House of Representatives, says he voted for the measure which sent the proposal to the voters, but now says “it was the worse thing we ever tried to do.”

And he has now doubled up on that, saying he will veto any “consumer” taxes lawmakers pass this year. Here’s what he said in the interview reported by The Associated Press:

“It (the defeat of the tax in 2003) ruined us for the next 25 years as far as raising taxes in the state. I hate to say that, but that’s the worst thing we ever tried to do. It was overreaching,” Bentley said.

“Sometimes bad times are not bad times. Sometimes bad times are good times because you can decide what the core functions of government are,” he said.

Bentley said budgets since 2008 have been propped up by money from state “rainy day” accounts, federal stimulus money, and capital gains on state investments. None of those, he says, are available for the new budget year starting Oct. 1. Bentley and the Legislature will have to devise a state budget by mid- May, and he’s optimistic voters will understand when cuts are made.

This is an interesting stance and one I believe is aimed directly at Riley, who many state political observers believe will challenge Bentley for a third term as the state’s chief executive in 2014. “It’s the first shot in that campaign,” according to one capitol observer.

Cuts of over $300 million or about 20 percent will have to be sliced from the current year’s General Fund Budget according to State House sources. State Legislators are expecting Draconian cuts in social services, state inspections which protect the public, and healthcare.

Bentley even said he would veto a proposed dollar-a-pack tax increase on cigarettes which could be of some help in making up the projected shortfall. “You are raising taxes on an addiction,” he told the reporters. Garrison Keillor to perform in Montgomery

My friend Garrison Keillor, the host of Public Radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion” will host “An Evening with Garrison Keillor” at the Montgomery Performing Arts Center on April 25th. Go to Tickets are still available.

Nancy and I met Garrison as guests on two Prairie Home Cruises, one along the coast of Norway in 2007 and the Caribbean in 2010. On the Norway venture our cabins adjoined and were across the hall on the ship sailing the Caribbean.

Today, Prairie Home Companion is heard by 4 million listeners each week on more than 600 public radio stations, and abroad on America One and the Armed Forces Networks in Europe and the Far East.

“When the show started, it was something funny to do with my friends, and then it became an achievement that I hoped would be successful, and now it’s a good way of life,” Garrison told in an interview on the Norway cruise. Most of the Prairie Home cast usually performs on the cruise events.

Keillor, 70, plans to retire from the show in “a year or so.” He has performed in Alabama on two other occasions, one at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater last summer and in Birmingham in the 1990’s, an event at the Alabama Theater he remembers vividly. “It must have snowed two feet deep and I thought we were supposed to be in the sunny South,” he says. “Maybe a 100 folks made it to the theater and we were determined to perform for them. It’s one I’ll never forget.”

The Montgomery show will not be a full Prairie Home production, but will feature Keillor’s storytelling and some of the musical cast. It will actually be squeezed in between two of the live radio broadcasts which will be performed in Nashville.

I have been corresponding with him since 2007 about doing a show in the “Cradle of the Confederacy” by teasing his inquisitive nature with the idea that he would be performing a block from the telegraph house where the message was sent to attack Fort Sumter; and two blocks from the new Rosa Parks Library.

It worked.

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: