In introducing Bentley, State Sen. Greg Reed talked about all that Bentley has done for the citizens in Walker County overall, as well as his support in the immediate and long-term recovery following the tornadoes in April of 2011.
“With compassion and skill he came to our towns when times were the toughest, not only did he hug necks and pray with us, but he gave us all the support and resources the State of Alabama had available in our time of most significant need,” Reed said.
Bentley discussed why he decided to run for governor, despite people who asked why he would want the job, given the state’s economic trials.
“When I was inaugurated on Jan. 17, 2011, we were in the worst economic recession, and our state was basically broke,” Bentley said. “It truly was. Every rainy day fund we had in the state had been borrowed out of.”
Bentley said he decided to force the government to cut back rather than increase taxes to cover the state’s deficit.
He said he and the legislature were able to right the state’s ailing economics.
“We have not raised taxes on the people of this state, and, you know what, we aren’t going to,” Bentley said.
He also said that no government ever reduces itself voluntarily and usually keeps expanding to take up more funds and resources, but that is exactly what the state government has done under his administration.
Bentley also said his administration has saved money by refinancing bonds at a lower rate, revamping retirement for new hires in the state, asking state employees to pay more on their retirement and downsizing the state government by 5,000 employees largely via retirement.
According to him, these cuts have saved the state $1 billion annually on its $8 billion budget.
Another focus for Bentley has been to attract jobs in order to get Alabamians working so they are able to pay taxes to keep the state running.
He compared the recruitment of Airbus to the recruitment of Mercedes in the 1990s. Between the Airbus facility and its accompanying suppliers, Bentley said he expects it to provide thousands of jobs.
Bentley also touted the state’s supply of natural resources as a draw for industries, including the four sources of electricity — coal, natural gas, nuclear and hydro-electric.
“Coal is very important, and we are going to support coal in Alabama,” Bentley said. “I don’t care what they do in Washington.”
He then praised Bevill State Community College and other two-year colleges around the state for supplying what he called the best workforce training in the country.
“If it were not for our two-year college systems, we would not be able to recruit an Airbus or any of these other places, so I want to thank them for what they do,” Bentley said.
Although Bentley had high praise for the large corporations, like Airbus, he said the majority of the jobs in the state are provided by small business owners. He also stressed entrepreneurship and innovation for creating new small businesses in the state to keep employing Alabamians.
“We have the lowest unemployment rate in Alabama of any of the southeastern states,” Bentley said to applause from the crowd.
Bentley also discussed the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program, which provides funds to improve roads and bridges.
“We have now put in place 700 projects in the state of Alabama using GARVEE bonds, and they have amounted now to $970 million that has gone all over the state of Alabama,” Bentley said. Walker County has received $12 million of that funding.
He believes the major overhaul of roads and bridges will help keep and recruit business, as well as securing the safety of Alabama residents.
In closing, Bentley once again covered the progress made so far in his term.
“There is no state that has done more with less and has made more progress than the State of Alabama has done in the last two-and-a-half years without raising taxes on the people of the state,” Bentley said.