Support Strong for Governor’s Costly Legal Battles

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There are a few issues that have come up again and again around the 2016 elections, and Governor Robert Bentley has recently gotten in the middle of them—namely through the legal system. And that can be expensive for the already cash-strapped state. But are Alabamians willing to go along for the potentially costly ride?

Ask just about any conservative: defunding Planned Parenthood and banning Syrian refugees is a no-brainer. Governor Robert Bentley is fighting even the possibility of Syrian refugees resettling in Alabama.

“I agree to an extent,” 24-year-old  Blake Holcomb says. He lives in Calera and works at a deer processing plant.

“I mean I don’t think that we should build a wall to keep immigrants from coming in, but at the same time, with the way stuff is right now, I could kind of understand why we wouldn’t let Syrian refugees into the country,” he says.  “I mean, I don’t think it’s very safe.”

Safety was Bentley’s number one concern when he sued the federal government earlier this month.  The lawsuit aims to block the placement of Syrian refugees in Alabama. And to Holcomb, it’s a fight worth fighting.

“I’d say at any cost honestly,” he says, “but that’s just me.”

It’s not just him. Vincent resident Don Driggers says he feels strongly about Syrian refugees.

“I don’t believe that they should be able to come here at just free will. So I think that if we have to have 200 lawyers, go for it,” he says.

Driggers went so far as to say if Bentley asked him for some money to “buy a lawyer”, he’d do it. It’s not clear at this point how much the lawsuit will cost the state. The governor’s office didn’t respond to repeated requests for details surrounding legal fees in the case.

Valerie Ramey, economics professor at the University of California San Diego, says there are a few things to remember.

“Well first of all, this is typically a very small part of government spending,” Ramey says.

Take the legal battle between Bentley and Planned Parenthood. Last year Bentley moved to stop Medicaid dollars from going to that organization The state had to settle that lawsuit, and pay $51,000. The state’s general fund budget is about $1.8 billion.

“But there’s the separate issue of, does that spending reflect the values of the citizens of the country?” Ramey says.

Or in this case, the state. And, as you could imagine, that depends on who you ask. Ollie Davison of Hoover doesn’t consider himself a conservative. He says these lawsuits the state is provoking are a waste of taxpayer dollars.

“We’re suing the federal government and losing cases, and we’re paying out millions of dollars that we don’t have,” Davison says.

And Davison says that’s especially worrisome as the Alabama legislature kicks off another session Tuesday with more budget cuts on the horizon.

Gigi Douban

Gigi Douban

News Director