Local officials voice tax opinions

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 14, 2003

Local government officials have weighed in their opinions on Governor Bob Riley's tax and accountability package.

Covington County District Judge Frank "Trippy" McGuire had to look at the effects it would have on local citizens before he made a decision, he said.

"If the package would adversely affect those who have recently lost their jobs in Covington County, then I couldn't be for it," he said.

"It wouldn't be fair to them if it did affect those individuals.

But it doesn't appear that it would affect them, from what I understand.

From what I have seen, the majority of people in Alabama won't be affected by the tax change significantly.

There are a lot of senior citizens living in the county, and they will continue to get their homestead exemptions.

I don't see it would affect their pocket books significantly, either.

I couldn't support (the package) if I knew it was going to hurt these people.

Having addressed (the citizens') issue, I can move forward."

People against the tax package who are overly worried about accountability shouldn't be, according to McGuire.

"The Governor has a section about accountability in the amendment," McGuire said.

"I feel pretty good about these accountability provisions.

There will be an Alabama Excellence Initiative Fund for education, and I think that is great."

McGuire said he hates to see oppression from other states and jokes with Alabama in the punch-line, and he's ready for Alabama to move forward.

"I'm tired of Alabama being looked on as a third-rate state and The United States isn't a third-world country," McGuire said.

"I'm sick of the state being looked down on, and we've got to do something to help ourselves."

Amendment 1 will be good for the state because of five main reasons, said McGuire.

"First of all, most people's pocketbooks won't be affected by it," McGuire said.

"Secondly, we have a Republican governor who is for a tax increase, which should tell the citizens of Alabama how much we are in the hole.

Thirdly, (the amendment) will quiet national media which has labeled us as 'not up to par.'

Fourth and most important of all, the amendment would be for the children.

They're talking about cutting teachers' positions and programs if the amendment fails.

I've seen mottoes on signs which read 'Let's do the right thing,' and I don't like that.

They should read 'Let's do it for the kids.'"

The fifth indication the plan will be good is the National and State Christian Coalition's opposition on the issue, said McGuire.

"The state coalition is against gambling and against Amendment 1," McGuire said.

"But the casinos are also against Amendment 1, because there is a possibility they will fund the state if the amendment fails.

I just have to say no state has any business supporting gambling, or anything addictive."

The Alabama District Attorneys Association has released a memo in support of the referendum, as well.

"We have the chance to fix the problems that have plagued the criminal justice system for a long time and move Alabama ahead," stated ADAA officials.

"The people of Alabama elected the district attorneys of this state to serve and protect them.

Part of that responsibility is to ensure the strength of the criminal justice system.

In our opinion, the only way to successfully fulfill that duty is to change the system; the best way is through the reforms passed by Governor Riley."

Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, Seth Hammett, also expressed his views on the tax package.

"Alabama, unlike the federal government which is granting a tax cut, cannot run up huge deficits," Hammett said.

"The federal government deficit is an estimated $455 billion this year.

State government must have revenue to operate or face the prospect of reduced services and large funding cuts.

"State leaders have used all of the one-time funding fixes available to the state.

Raising revenue or cutting services are our only alternatives.

If the Riley tax package fails, Alabama will face serious reductions in funding and services."

When asked about Riley's tax package, State Senator Jimmy Holley declined to comment.