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Bentley: Economy, jobs No. 1 issue

Dr. Robert Bentley, a Republican running for Alabama governor, says the No. 1 issue facing the state is the economy and unemployment.

Bentley visited Clanton on Friday, to campaign and meet with business leaders. A native of Columbiana, Bentley currently resides in Tuscaloosa, where he operates a large dermatology office and serves as a state representative.

“The No. 1 issue I think we need to do is put people back to work,” Bentley said.

His Reemployment Act of 2010, which recently passed in the Alabama House, would give employers big tax deductions — up to 50 percent of an employee’s salary —to hire workers currently on the state’s unemployment rolls.

If elected, Bentley has also pledged not to collect a salary until the state reaches full employment, which he defined as a 5-6 percent jobless rate.

He said the state must also help small business because “there’s where we’re going to create most of the jobs.”

Bentley wants to booster production by marketing Alabama products to Latin America.

“We don’t want to ship jobs overseas; we want to send products overseas,” he said.

As a doctor, Bentley strongly opposes current efforts in Washington, D.C. to reform the country’s healthcare.

He does support some state reform to healthcare, such as allowing people to shop for insurance out of state, working to share medical files between doctors and awarding physicians who will treat indigent patients.

The state also needs more primary care physicians, Bentley said.

“It doesn’t matter how much insurance you have if you don’t have anyone to treat you,” he said.

Bentley proposes offering scholarships to Alabama’s medical schools for students who promise to practice in areas in need of doctors.

The candidate also talked about education and giving more power to local school boards, the need for ethics reform and his general opposition to gambling — a topic he says he is sick of hearing about.

“I’m personally against gambling…It never helps any economy, not only that, it hurts people,” Bentley said.

However, he said he wouldn’t oppose giving the citizens of Alabama the opportunity to solve the problem.

If electronic bingo or any other forms of gambling do pass in a vote of the people, Bentley said the industry should be heavily taxed and overseen by a strong gambling commission.

As to why people should elect him governor, Bentley said he has more experience dealing with budgets than anyone running, he has more ideas than any other candidate and has a track record of bipartisanship.

“We can still sit down and work together,” he said.