MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - This is one part of our series on the candidates in Alabama's upcoming June 5 gubernatorial primary election.
"If people elect me, I'll make them proud," says state Senator Bill Hightower. "I bring a whole new toolkit of capabilities to that office and I want to be the governor, the 55th governor of the state of Alabama."
The Mobile legislator wants to move across the street from the statehouse to the governor's office. Hightower touts his experience working for Fortune 500 companies and a conservative record in the legislature.
Hightower says he wants to bring in term limits for state lawmakers and do away with budget earmarks he believes are holding back the state. He also wants to implement a flat tax.
Experience working in big business will help him attract more jobs to Alabama, Hightower contends, stressing that while bringing in out of state companies is great, Alabama should not ignore its homegrown businesses.
WHO IS BILL HIGHTOWER?
"I'm a businessman and have worked for Fortune 500 companies around the world," Hightower explains. He decided to return home to Alabama shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Hightower and his wife own several small businesses on the state's coast and he's served as a state senator for five years.
"I wondered, where is the leadership across the street? We've had a dermatologist as a governor, we've had a lawyer as a governor, we've had career politicians, why shouldn't we have a businessman?" Hightower questions.
WHY HIGHTOWER SHOULD BE GOVERNOR
Hightower says a businessman will come at the government from a different angle, looking for inefficiencies and cost reductions. He wants to remove the state's high number of earmark, a process that determines where most of the state's tax dollars go without lawmakers' input.
The state senator said he would push to radically change Alabama's tax structure as well, hoping to change the current system into a flat tax.
When it comes to term limits, Hightower says there "should be no exception" since almost every other constitutional office is term-limited. He believes state lawmakers should be held to the same standard.
"I know what companies are looking for," Hightower touts, saying his experience as a businessman, coupled with his experience as a state lawmaker, gives him the unique ability to help attract jobs to the state.
"I'm not going to give everything the state has a way to get a company to come down," he cautions.
The candidate believes the state has a worker crisis and he would bring the need for workers into high schools by offering certification programs on the high school level. The program could help give some kids a purpose and give them a better lifestyle, he says.
Hightower also supports cutting the state's corporate tax rate. The idea, make it "incredibly great" to do business in Alabama so the state does not need to give so many incentives to incoming companies.
"Our healthcare is a mess because the government is involved," Hightower expresses. He wants to allow market forces to work when it comes to healthcare in the state. He supports bringing in block grants from the national government to allow for the state to innovate how to deliver care for its citizens.
"I want to set a platform that will last for the next 30 or 40 years, not for the next couple of years," Hightower envisions.
The plan starts with doing away with the system of earmarks. For years, Alabama has ranked No. 1 for the percentage of its state budget already earmarked for other programs. By removing earmarks, it will allow lawmakers to see where the waste and fraud is in state government, the candidate believes.
Hightower has voted against tax increases in the legislature, saying that before the state talks about raising additional revenue, budget reform needs to come first.
"These issues, they are going to handicap us forever if we don't start dealing with them," he says.
Hightower said if reform happens, he could look into policies like two-year budgeting processes similar to what some other states do, or reduce the length of a legislative session.