MONTGOMERY — A nonprofit group chaired by former members of Gov. Robert Bentley’s administration has been created to promote the governor’s agenda, including his proposals to increase taxes.
According to its Facebook page, the Alabama Council for Excellent Government “promotes public policies that give Alabamians a more efficient, effective, accountable and excellent government.”
The organization, a 501c4, was created in February at Bentley’s request, said Cooper Shattuck, chairman of its board of directors.
Shattuck said as a nonprofit, the Alabama Council for Excellent Government can do more outreach than Bentley’s office can, including buying television or other media ads.
“His office is funded through state resources,” Shattuck said. “They can do work to get a message out that he’s seeking to communicate. A 501c4, through private funds, can do more that the governor would want to do and not spend state resources to do it.”
Shattuck is general counsel for the University of Alabama board of trustees and Bentley’s former legal adviser.
The organization is funded through non-tax deductible contributions, he said.
It seeks to foster job creation, affordable living, an improved business climate and making government more efficient, according to the Facebook page. It “will promote legislation necessary to implement such policies, one bold move at a time.”
Being “bold” has become a Bentley theme as he talks to the public, promoting his $541 million tax plan.
But lawmakers don’t appear to be on board yet. The bulk of the money would come from two sources: raising the tax on cigarettes by 82 cents per pack, as well as other tobacco products, and raising the sales taxes on automobile purchases from 2 percent to 4 percent.
“I’m getting real negative responses on it,” Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, told The Associated Press. Clouse is chairman of the House General Fund Committee. Clouse told The AP lawmakers have yet to agree on the size of the expected General Fund shortfall for the budget year that starts Oct. 1. Some put it around $290 million; Bentley said $700 million.
Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, said Monday he hasn’t heard from constituents supportive of tax increases.
“The only cries for increasing the tax burden on the citizens of Alabama are coming from the governor, the bureaucracy in Montgomery and eventually this nonprofit entity he has created,” Henry said. “In my opinion, any new taxes or any new burdens placed on the citizens of Alabama should initiate from the citizens of Alabama; I have yet to hear that request.”
The Alabama Council for Excellent Government also has a website, acegov.com. It lists Marquita Davis and R.B. Walker as the group’s other two board members. Davis is a former state finance director under Bentley. Walker is a senior governmental relations analyst for Alabama Power.
Shattuck said while the group now is focused on legislative issues, it will not dissolve after the session ends this summer but will keep promoting Bentley’s ideas.
“It’s not a single issue thing,” he said.