It’s like watching a mouse chase a cat. Alabama governor Robert Bentley, a Republican, has been stumping for weeks now making his case for higher taxes.

It seems like some kind of nightmare from a House of Cards episode, but it is real and it is happening in the most conservative state in the union. Most politicos have watched this for weeks now wondering when it will stop.

When will the governor realize that he is using the wrong script? When will his staffers yell: ‘No! No! We meant tax cuts!’ But it has not happened. In fact, it is so serious it is becoming a heated debate between the governor and legislative leaders in his own party.

The partisan GOP blog Yellowhammer News has even been blasting the governor for his proposals in recent weeks. One of their most damning headlines reads: “Awkward: Bentley pushes tax hikes while campaign site still promises ‘No New Taxes’.”

Yet, while Republican legislators decry his proposals, they openly admit dark days are not only ahead, but are here, when it comes to state budgets: particularly the General Fund which funds Medicaid, prisons, law enforcement and courts. All of this begs the question: is there a common-ground solution?

Alabama House Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) says there is. For the fourth year, he is proposing an amendment to the Alabama constitution that will allow the people of Alabama to vote on a lottery. The difference is, this time he is offering two bills: one for the General Fund and one for the Education Trust Fund.

He says he made this change in hopes that the GOP-controlled legislature will consider a lottery as an option as opposed to the governor’s tax increases. Admittedly, this puts legislators between a proverbial rock and a hard place.

On one hand, you could support your governor’s tax increases and possibly lose your next bid for re-election. On the other, you could support a democratic lottery proposal even if you might be against gambling yourself (or at least to those who ask).

But the third option, perhaps the worst of them all, is that you do nothing to solve the state’s budget issues and you go down in history as a do-nothing legislator comparable to the “Washington status quo” that you probably ran against in your election.

State leaders need to suck it up, sit down and come up with solid common sense solutions to the state’s budget problems. With the lottery polling upwards of 70 percent and tax increases not even a serious topic of discussion for most Alabamians, I say let the people vote!

It’s time for state leaders to come together and put the issue on the ballot for citizens to decide. From a self preservation perspective, you’d think letting voters make the decision to bring a lottery is much easier to digest than making the decision yourself to raise taxes on them without their input.

But, hey! In Alabama, there are mice chasing cats up and down Capitol Hill and all around the state. We just get to sit back and enjoy the show.

Brett Johnson
Political Columnist

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