Byrne: Ethics, Education, Economics

Published 9:58 pm Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ala. Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne said he didn’t back down as the chancellor of the state’s two-year college system. And, he told those at the Brundidge Rotary Club Wednesday he wouldn’t back down as governor either.

Byrne, of Fairhope, was serving as state Senator for Baldwin County in 2007, when Gov. Bob Riley asked him to step up as leader of the college system, that had undergone four chancellors in two months and was facing two law suits.

“We cleaned it up. We put some people in jail, fired some people and changed some policies,” Byrne said.

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And, as Byrne looks ahead to another tough task, he said he’s ready to take the seat in the state’s highest office.

“I know what’s coming. Alabama will see the worst financial situation it has,” Byrne said. “We are propping up state government with federal dollars that will be gone next year. We’ve got a tough, tough situation facing state government.”

To combat those times, Byrne said his agenda can be summed up in three “e’s”— ethics reform, education reform and economic development.

“The day after inauguration, I will invite everybody in the press in the entire state to a special legislative session to consider the following bills: The first, to ban double dipping,” Byrne said.

The other bills to reform both state and local government are to eliminate pork, ban PAC to PAC transfers, make every lobbyist in the state register and disclose the amount of money they spend in state and local government and give the state ethics commission subpoena power.

Byrne said currently lobbyists are only required to disclose money if they spend more than $250 a day.

“That means, for $249.99, you can show me a pretty good time in Montgomery,” he said.

Byrne said education is the second key thing on his agenda, if elected to office.

“We have a 37 percent dropout rate in Alabama,” he said. And, he attributes that mostly to students not being able to read on grade level.

“The Alabama Reading Initiative ends at third grade. We need to extend it to eighth grade,” he said.

Byrne said the tenure policies in the state also need reformation.

Byrne also said he’s passionate about bringing charter schools to the state.

“I believe they should be available,” he said. “They won’t be everywhere because they won’t work everywhere.”

For this session, at least, charter schools may not be a reality, as the bill was voted down in a House Committee Wednesday. Many who oppose the bill were concerned the addition of new schools would take away from existing public schools.

Byrne disagrees.

“If you’re an existing public school and you have 500 kids and 100 of those go to a charter school, you won’t need as much money,” he said. “It won’t penalize them at all.”

Economically, Byrne said it is his goal for Alabama to stand out among any other state in the nation. To do this “we do not raise taxes, we give tax credits to businesses so they have a bottom line incentive to hire people and we make sure everyone around the world knows we want businesses.”

Byrne said he stands against gambling, personally, but if elected to office, he will do his best to ensure the law is followed.

“If the law in the state says you can do it, then it’s none of the governor’s business,” he said. “If people vote for an amendment to the legislation, they we’ll tighten regulations and tax it as much as we can.”