Republican Gov. Bob Riley (Ala.), formerly a low-tax and limited government Republican, is now a tax-hiking Republican. On September 9, Alabama voters will vote up or down on a ballot initiative containing the largest tax increase in Alabama history-crafted by Riley.
“Basically, when Bob Riley got into politics some eight years ago, he went into Congress as part of the Newt Gingrich crowd. And he was very, very outspoken in the beliefs of reducing taxes and shrinking government,” said Bob Gambacurta, press spokesman for the Alabama Tax Accountability Coalition formed to combat the tax package, in an interview September 3. But now, as governor, Riley is a “tax-and-spend guy,” Gambacurta said.
Riley has proposed a $1.2 billion tax hike-“six to eight times bigger than any tax increase before” in Alabama history, according to Gambacurta-that is promoted as the way to shift Alabamas tax burden from lower-income people onto higher-income residents while increasing funding for priorities such as education. “We have a tremendous number of Republicans in this state who are opposed to the Riley program,” said Gambacurta. “These are the people who elected him. . . . Instead of dancing with the one who brung him, he jumped ship and is now with the Alabama Education Association [the state teachers union]-probably the most powerful special interest in the state-and the Democratic leadership of the state legislature. He joined the other side.”
He asserted that, though the Riley plan cuts income taxes on poorer Alabamians, “these savings will be eaten up by sales tax increases. These hit poorer people the most. The property tax increases will be reflected in higher rents.”
Property and income taxes can be increased only by popular vote in Alabama, he said, and he predicted that the Riley plan would be defeated. “I saw a poll that put the plan 31 points behind,” Gambacurta said.
For more critique of the Riley plan, go to www.taxonyou.com. Says an article on the website, “Professors from the University of Alabama and some editorialists have challenged findings by the Beacon Hill Institute that a proposed billion-dollar tax hike would inflict substantial harm on the state economy. We would like to explain why our critics are wrong and why our warnings cannot be ignored.” Beacon Hill estimates that the Riley plan would cost the state 24,000 jobs.