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Tim James stops in Demopolis

Approximately 50 people filled Rooster Hall Friday to hear Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James speak less than four days before the polls open.

The stop, part of James’ “Common Sense Express,” made its stop in Marengo County, sandwiched between stops in Camden and Thomasville.

“It’s time to put common sense back into every facet of government,” James told the crowd. “It’s time to live within our means.”

James said his business background would aid him in taking a hard line on budgets and deficit spending.

“In the early 2000s, budget appropriation was more than double the rate of inflation,” he said. “The responsibility for where we are now lies solely with the legislature. I would have vetoed that budget.”

James said he would allow more flexibility in local school districts to spend appropriated dollars in areas that best suit their need and would make changes to how teachers are awarded tenure.

“It needs to be performance based,” he said. “Testing today is so effective that you can pick out which teachers are performing properly.”

Among cuts that would be necessary to help off set a shortfall, James said he could first find opportunity in the Department of Transportation.

“The DOT is top-heavy,” he said. “Head count at the DOT has outpaced the general population 6:1. Had the increase in headcount at the DOT grown with the population, that’s $50 million in additional cost savings…in the DOT.”

James, if elected, said he would use the Black Belt’s best attributes to bring economic development to one of the state’s poorest areas.

“West Alabama has an asset,” he said. “Its natural resources…hunting, fishing, its lakes and rivers. One-and-a-half billion dollars is spent in Arkansas from people going duck hunting.”

James said the state should invest its energy – and dollars – into promoting the Black Belt as a hunter’s destination and go after tourism dollars.

“We want people from all over the country to come here and see what we have.”

One of James’ highest priorities was improving education. Among his plans were to develop programs with the state universities, which would embed college students into regional schools and help develop students who struggle with reading in exchange for college credit.

“Statistics show that if a student can read at grade level in the third grade, they are on the path to success,” he said. “If they are behind in the third grade, statistics show they will stay behind and are prone to dropping out.”