Our legislatures could use a few more Marines

Marines are a special breed. Their famous motto, “Semper Fidelis,” which is Latin for “always faithful,” represents how these warriors remain faithful to their mission, to their fellow Marines, to the Corps and the country — regardless of the consequences. It’s an indelible principle that continues to guide them long after they’ve hung up their uniforms and joined the civilian world.
Alabama State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw
“There’s no such thing as a former Marine,” explained General James Amos, the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps. “You’re a Marine, just in a different uniform and you’re in a different phase of your life. But you’ll always be a Marine because you went to Parris Island, San Diego or the hills of Quantico.”
State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, is a Marine, and Alabamians are fortunate to have him serving in our State Legislature.
Last week, after hearing from the constituents he was elected to represent, the conservative lawmaker rented

space on a billboard in his North Alabama district that read, “Governor Bentley wants to raise your taxes. I will not let that happen. Semper Fi – Senator Bill Holtzclaw.”

Holtzclaw and his constituents were responding to the governor’s plan to break his campaign promise by proposing a more than half-a-billion dollar tax increase. The vast majority of Holtzclaw’s constituents are conservative (I’m one of them) and our senator is simply following-through on the agenda we elected him to pursue. His billboard was a message back to the neighbors who had been stopping him around town, calling his office and sending him emails on the subject. They want him to fight, and he is. That’s representative democracy at its best.
Don’t tell that to the governor, though. In a vindictive move that harks back to the days of Democrat control, Bentley’s transportation director carried out the governor’s threat to conservative lawmakers by halting road projects in Holtzclaw’s district — a district bustling with the type of economic activity and revenue-generating jobs that Alabama needs.  
“I simply thought the billboard was just a step too far,” said John Cooper, the politically-appointed director of the Alabama Department of Transportation. He said the halted projects could top $100 million over the next two years. “If Sen. Holtzclaw is that concerned with taxes I think he probably would be uncomfortable with us spending tax money in his district, so I pulled the projects.”
That’s quite condescending. We’re not against paying taxes. This region pays more than its “fair share,” to borrow a liberal phrase.
We’re against not setting priorities with revenue already generated. We’re against the dishonorable tactic of punishing people who disagree with you. And we’re certainly against breaking promises not to raise taxes.
Bentley promised he wouldn’t raise taxes during his first campaign in 2010, signing a pledge that read, “I, Robert Bentley, pledge to the taxpayers of the state of Alabama, that I will oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.” He repeated the promise during his reelection campaign last year. The slogan “No New Taxes” was repeated throughout the summer and into the fall.
Conservative voters around the state — including those in Holtzclaw’s district — believed Bentley’s promises and voted him into a second term. Now we’re supposed to believe that after serving several years in the State Legislature dealing with the state’s budget, and four years of running the budget himself, that only weeks after his reelection Bentley suddenly learned that he needed to raise taxes?
In the words of another famous Marine, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!” It was funny when Private Gomer Pyle said it; not so much coming from the governor in the form of a $541 million tax increase package
Bentley broke his promise to the citizens of Alabama, and now his administration is assailing conservative principles and viciously attacking Republican lawmakers and the districts they represent. This is a sad moment for the Republican Party of Alabama.
While I cannot end this column by writing “Semper Fi” to Holtzclaw (only Marines have earned the privilege of uttering those words to a comrade), I do applaud his commitment to remain faithful to his constituents and our shared philosophy. If he’ll remain faithful to us, then we’ll remain faithful to him.
(First posted on AL.com)