State facing ‘dire’ economic times, Bentley says

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Alabama will be facing “dire” economic times in the coming years, Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert Bentley said to about 30 members of the Shelby County Education Retirees Association Sept. 21.

“We have depleted all of our rainy day funds, and the state has just declared 2 percent proration,” Bentley said. “That basically leaves me with nothing to work with. It’s still going to be a somewhat dire situation.

“But I do believe things will get better. I am optimistic that we will be able to get people back working in this state,” Bentley said. “I am going to spend every working minute in (the governor’s office) to get people back to work.”

The candidate spoke to the retired educators group at the Shelby County Instructional Services Center in Alabaster after making an earlier campaign stop in Helena.

During the Alabaster stop, Bentley also suggested extending state sales tax to Internet sales, ensuring all businesses are properly paying taxes and working with BP to get oil spill relief funds as soon as possible.

“I’m not for raising taxes, but I feel everyone should be paying their fair share,” he said.

Bentley urged Alabamians to not boycott individual BP stations.

“BP is going to have to come forward with some money to help our state. I feel I can negotiate with them to get it faster than we could if it got wrapped up in court.

“We need money from them now, not five or 10 years from now,” Bentley added. “But please don’t boycott BP. The poor people who own a BP station didn’t have anything to do with the oil spill.”

Bentley, a Columbiana native who served as the Shelby County High School student body president in 1961, praised the state’s teachers and public schools.

“I have been a strong supporter of public education in the legislature,” Bentley said. “I would not be a doctor today if it wasn’t for my teachers.”

Bentley also said he differed from his Democratic opponent, Ron Sparks, in several areas. Bentley said he is pro-life and Sparks is pro-choice, and the two have differing views on illegal immigrants.

“I believe we have a real problem with illegal aliens,” Bentley said. “He doesn’t believe that. At least I don’t think he does, because he’s made so many conflicting comments about it.”

Bentley said he is opposed to government health care and involvement in individual lives. The Republican candidate also said he is a strong proponent of the 10th Amendment, which guarantees certain state rights.

“I believe in our federal Constitution, especially the 10th Amendment, which guarantees state sovereignty,” Bentley said. “(Sparks) does not believe we should exact any state sovereignty.”

Bentley said, if elected, he would be in favor of allowing Alabama citizens to decide if gambling should be allowed in the state.

“I believe if you give the people of Alabama a chance to make a clear, simple choice on the matter, they will make the right choice,” Bentley said. “I don’t think most people want a bill written by gambling interests. You just need to put it to a fair vote.”