GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Alabama Governor Robert Bentley addressed Marshall County leaders and citizens Monday morning at the Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge. His topic: Alabama’s general fund budget, and why he says a tax increase is desperately needed.
"I have always been honest with the people of Alabama. I am being honest today when I say we are in a fiscal crisis dealing with our budgets, and we can solve the problem," said Governor Bentley.
"I have presented a solution to the Legislature. The solution is there. We have to deal with a way of dysfunctional budgeting that has been going on for 60 years. You can't just keep kicking the can down the road," Bentley said.
"We knew this day was going to come. We knew this crisis was going to take place, and it's here," he added.
The budget has not been passed yet, but if it were to pass in its current form, Bentley says many state services would suffer massive cuts, including state parks. Alabama State Parks announced a contingency plan last week that would close 15 parks, including Lake Guntersville, Buck's Pocket and Joe Wheeler in north Alabama, as WHNT News 19 first reported.
Bentley said the state needs $541 million to restore these services and many others, such as state trooper offices and mental health.
"I am not closing down Lake Guntersville State Park," the governor said firmly to the crowd, who immediately applauded. "However, if the budget that has been presented by the Legislature is voted on and adopted, the legislature will close the state park. It's not me doing it."
Some state legislators were in the crowd to hear this.
Bentley reiterated a state lottery is not the answer, and many in the crowd applauded.
"Am I opposed to the people's right to vote on the lottery? No," Bentley said. "But we cannot think that will solve this problem. It will not. It's a constitutional amendment and the people wouldn't get to vote on it till 2016."
The Governor also took questions from citizens in the crowd, who urged him to work out the crisis and save the parks. Others asked him about other potential cuts to mental health services and license offices.
"If we want these services -- we have to pay for them. You cannot get something for nothing," Governor Bentley said firmly. "We have to pay for the services we expect. You can't have a cell phone without paying for it. You can't drive your car without paying for gas. Everything we own in this state - this building, the roads, Montgomery. Somebody paid a tax to build it."
"Sometimes it hurts to get a tetanus shot, but it hurts a whole lot worse to get tetanus. So it's time to get a tetanus shot," Bentley added.