Alabama Governor Robert Bentley says that he would never provide anyone with the same liberties that Dr. David Bronner of the Retirement System of Alabama has enjoyed for decades. In this case, he was referring to Bronner's proxy authority to make investment decisions for the boards of control of the RSA for the Employees and Teachers Retirement Systems.
"That's pretty dangerous if someone uses your proxy" the governor said. "I wouldn't give somebody my proxy."
On December 8, the Employees Retirement System Board of Control approved a resolution that would mandate that Dr. Bronner run all investment decisions by the board's investment committee before any action could be taken. Bronner disagreed with the move and argued that it would tie his hands when it came to the oversight of the fund.
"That's not how Wall Street works" Bronner said following the meeting.
The proposal was drafted and presented to the board by Curtis Stewart, a Deputy Commissioner in the Alabama Department of Revenue, whom the governor appointed to the board six months ago.
At the time Stewart denied any involvement with the governor's office in the drafting of the resolution and the governor reiterated that he didn't have any knowledge of the effort until after the board approved Stewart's proposal.
"This was not political" Gov. Bentley said. "This was just to have more transparency to try to get better returns for the retirees according to the ones who made the suggestions."
Bronner has taken the governor to task in very public arenas about his refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Bronner has even gone so gone so far as to describe the governors across the country who fail to see the financial benefits of Medicaid expansion as "idiots."
In Bronner's view, Medicaid expansion is a golden economic opportunity for the state to rake in billions of federal funds while expanding health coverage to hundreds of thousands of eligible Alabamians, easing the burden on hospitals to pay for uncompensated care.
Gov. Bentley has been a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act. His rhetoric against Medicaid expansion has picked up in recent months saying that he "couldn't think of anything worse than to expand an entitlement program right now." Medicaid already takes up approximately one third of all non-education state expenditures. The governor has argued that Alabama has enough trouble paying for Medicaid as it is and adding more people to the rolls, even with substantial financial help from Washington, would be a tough task.
Bronner contended at the ERS meeting that the move to remove his authority was indeed "political" in nature.
It is up to the ERS Investment Procedures Committee to come up with new regulations to be followed by the RSA's CEO.
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