On Thursday, the governor’s rolicking tour bus rolled into the north Alabama town of Athens, where the Tuscaloosa Republican sang the sweet song of fiscal prudence. He knows the tune well.
Bentley told reporters that Alabama “was basically broke” when he took office after the 2010 election and following two terms of fellow Republican Gov. Bob Riley.
Bentley claims in his first year as governor that the state “recruited more jobs … than in the previous five years.”
Bentley bemoaned the fact that Alabama “had been living off false money” during much of Riley’s years in office due to an over-reliance on federal stimulus funds.
Bentley championed the fact that his administration had not raised taxes and has enforced a stringent hiring freeze for state workers. He seemed proud that 5,000 state employees who have retired or quit have not been replaced.
Bentley’s estimate is that his administration’s changes are saving the state $1 billion a year.
“Just simple things like that we’ve been able to do,” Bentley said in Athens. “But it adds up.”
Yes, it does.
What Bentley’s Road to Economic Recovery Tour doesn’t feature is the non-fiscal effect his administration’s scorched-earth policy is having on state government and state services. That’s conveniently left out of the governor’s talking points, as if shuttered offices and reduced services aren’t that big of a deal to Alabamians.
If he were truly transparent, Bentley would discuss the effect having fewer crime labs available to process evidence has on law enforcement.
Bentley would talk about the effect of cuts to the state’s mental health budget.
Bentley would openly fret over the reduction of courthouse services.
Bentley would admit frustration over reduced hours at the state archives, less money for the state parks system, and fewer hours at state health clinics.
When discussing the state’s lowered unemployment rate, he would also talk about the regions in which more people aren’t working — such as here, in Calhoun County, unemployment is not dropping.
Under his leadership, the state is saving money, he says. (It’s a small wonder, then, that he pushed for raises for public school teachers this spring.) But by saving that money and running the state like a business, which it is not, Bentley’s administration is putting the bottom line over the health and welfare of the state’s residents.
You don’t hear that truth when Bentley’s Road to Economic Recovery Tour rolls into town.