The plan was to attack the size of the federal government and argue that the only way to bring the beast under control was to starve it by taking away that on which it feeds — revenue.
Therefore, the argument continued, cut taxes and the government will have no choice but to shrink.
Because cutting taxes is always popular, this approach was soon adopted in a number of states. Alabama, however, did not have to do this because taxes here were already low and government was already starved into a stupor.
Still, there were those who felt this services-on-a-shoestring system should be cut even more. The recent recession and the subsequent revenue shortfalls gave them an opportunity to do just that.
Leading this new starve-the-beast effort is Gov. Robert Bentley — or, at least, he has become the spokesman for it, since some believe legislative leaders Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, and Del Marsh, R-Anniston, are really the architects of the movement.
The other day, Bentley spoke to the Business Council of Alabama in Point Clear, where the well-to-do gather to celebrate their successes. He told of how his administration has already cut $675 million from state spending and is on target to reach $1 billion or more.
Or, to put it another way, he told those who could afford to pay more taxes to support state services that they won’t have to because the state won’t provide the services.
But wait, some of those services are necessary if Alabama is to attract the businesses the BCA represents.
Not to worry. The governor has already proposed a constitutional amendment that would take money from the Alabama Trust Fund to keep the beast fed for a few more years.
Though Bentley did not mention it, BCA members surely knew he also keeps their taxes low by issuing bonds to carry out much-needed repairs to roads and bridges. These bonds will be paid off from federal highway funds that are anticipated, though not assured.
With this infusion of borrowed money — borrowed from ourselves and from the federal government — the weakened beast will be kept alive a little longer, tax reform will be avoided, and the affluent in Alabama can look forward to more dinners at Point Clear.