POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY I am a deeply committed conservative and have always been a straight shooter who opposes political double-talk and believes that the flawed doctrine of political correctness is a direct threat to the basic freedoms and liberties that our U.S. Constitution guarantees us.
ETHICS Those who steal from others to enrich themselves are criminals whether they wear a ski mask in a bank or a suit and tie in the Alabama State House. Far too often, politicians lose their perspective, become numb to corruption, and fall prey to the temptations that the political systems offers. That is why I have supported legislation that took our ethics laws from worst in the nation to first in the nation. The politicians who have recently been indicted, convicted, and sentenced for their crimes are proof that our improvements are working. I will always work to ensure that politicians who engage in corruption will experience the inside of a jail cell.
EDUCATION I’ve worked to expand Alabama’s nationally-recognized First Class Pre-K program throughout Alabama because I understand that exposure to voluntary Pre-K programs often determine whether a child later excels in school or falls behind. Studies show that if a child can read at grade level by third grade, they can maintain their progress until graduation. If a child cannot read at level by that time, their chances of ever catching up drop dramatically. That’s why I want to expand Alabama’s voluntary First Class Pre-K program and give our children a jump start when it comes to learning. Pre-K programs can pay dividends years later in terms of having a prepared workforce that can fill 21st Century jobs. I support funding for career technical training which expands the potential of those in our schools. It’s a fact that not every child is going to go to college, and we need to make sure that those who don’t are adequately prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation. Career technical training is key in achieving that goal. Even students who do attend college benefit from acquiring the skills that career tech can provide them in high school. Training in the traditional trades also provides much-needed skills to fill the long-standing jobs that fewer and fewer individuals are prepared to fill. Emphasizing, encouraging, and funding career technical training will greatly benefit our economic development efforts. If we really want to have the best schools in the country, we need to pay our educators like we want to have the best schools in the country. It’s time we put as much emphasis on being successful in the classroom as we do on being successful on the football field, and the first step toward that goal is paying our teachers a wage that recognizes their efforts.
EDUCATIONAL CHOICE Charter schools and the Alabama Accountability Act are useful tools, but they are not one-size-fits-all solutions to our education problems. Charter schools, school choice, and similar ideas may work well in inner city school systems or underfunded systems, but they do not work in areas like ours where educators are succeeding and positive results are already being produced. We must find solutions to endemic public education problems across the board.
FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY Alabama currently collects enough revenue to meet our needs and provide essential services, but our state government lacks the flexibility to shift money to meet emergencies and unexpected challenges. In years past, whenever a new tax was approved, its proceeds were earmarked for one specific purpose or another. Some of these earmarks are constitutional, which means the voters, in their wisdom, dedicated the taxes to an agency, initiative, or spotlighted need during referendum elections. Many of Alabama’s statutory earmarks, however, were put in place many years ago through back room bargains between lobbyists and long-retired politicians who no longer roam the State House halls. Adjusting these earmarks will allow us to avoid new taxes and set priorities based on need, not on decades-old, money-hoarding schemes that lobbyists locked into our budgets. At 91 percent, we have the highest percentage of earmarked tax dollars in the nation. The national average is just 24 percent, and the next highest state behind Alabama is Michigan with 63 percent. Rhode Island is the lowest in the United States with only 4 percent of its tax revenues being earmarked. Attempting to raise taxes without first addressing earmarking is like pouring water into a bucket that has a large hole in the bottom of it. No matter how much water you pour, the bucket is never going to fill up. A joint legislative committee on budgets and earmarks is currently looking to plug the hole in the bottom of the bucket first and prevent any more trips to the taxpayers’ well. I believe we should budget like families gathered at the kitchen table – placing our bills on one side, our income on the other, and setting priorities that meet critical needs while living within our means.
STATE AND LOCAL TAXES I support removing the state sales tax on groceries, but liberals have called for accomplishing this by repealing Alabamians’ ability to deduct their federal income taxes from their state taxes, which, in my opinion, would result in an overall tax increase on working families and allow income that taxpayers already sent to the federal government to be unfairly double-taxed by the state. For any repeal effort to work, the state must prohibit cities and counties from raising taxes on groceries after the state has reduced them, or at least require a local referendum to be approved beforehand.
INFRASTRUCTURE We must quit talking about improving the transportation system in Jefferson County and Birmingham and start doing something about it. My transportation plan includes close examination of the steps our sister southeastern states have already taken to resolve their infrastructure issues and mimicking their successes while avoiding their pitfalls. Reducing regulations, implementing cost-cutting measures, and reexamining overly-cautions environmental mandates could dramatically reduce construction costs and help us put our money into asphalt instead of bureaucracy. Public/private partnerships, which allow the private sector to carry the majority of construction and maintenance costs, are another area worthy of exploring. Utilizing groundbreaking technologies in the road-building industry can also cut costs in the long-term and save millions of taxpayer dollars that can be reinvested in roadways. New high-density mineral bonds in asphalt, for example, can be used to repel the moisture and ultraviolet light rays that are major contributing factors in the cracking, raveling, and deterioration of our streets, highways, and interstates. By implementing our sister states’ models, innovative approaches, conservative policies, and new technologies, I remain confident we can provide Alabama’s citizens and businesses with the quality transportation system that they deserve.
JOB CREATION Alabama currently has the lowest unemployment rate in state history and are running close to the point of having more jobs available than qualified workers who can fill them. Toyota/Mazda, Polaris, Remington, Hyundai, Honda, Airbus, Boeing. These are just a few of the dozens upon dozens of new and expanding industries that have chosen to locate in Alabama and provide jobs and opportunity to our citizens in recent years. It is no secret that Alabama continues to lead not only the southeast, but the entire nation, in economic development categories across the board, and the state’s Department of Commerce could fill a room with all of the “Silver Shovel” awards and other industrial recruitment honors it has captured over the past few decades. But if we are going to continue our forward progress and provide even more jobs, hope, and security to Alabama’s families, our attention must begin to focus upon ensuring our workforce is prepared to fill 21st Century jobs. Career tech in our K-12 system, as I noted in the response to your education reform question above, is certainly a firm foundation upon which we can build our economic future. Expanding and enriching workforce development opportunities is our community college system is another integral part.
OPIOID EPIDEMIC Solving this epidemic is going to take the efforts of all involved parties, including law enforcement officials and medical professionals, working in a cooperative fashion and finding solutions together. The Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council that recently submitted its findings and report to Gov. Kay Ivey is a good first step. During the past legislative session, I supported a new law that increases penalties for the unlawful distribution of Fentanyl, a potent opioid that produces a heroin-like effect. The measure also sets minimum mandatory prison sentences based on the weight that is distributed. Fentanyl is considered to be 100 times more powerful than morphine, and coming into accidental contact with even the smallest amount can quickly kill first responders who treat overdose cases. Rampant opioid addiction is destroying lives, families, friendships and futures. Focusing efforts on combatting Fentanyl opens a new front in the war on drugs and targets distributors, who deserve punishment, over users, who need help and rehabilitation.