• 72°

Governor discusses tax plan with Andy Civitans

In part of a state-wide tour to inform the citizens about Amendment 1 on September 9th's ballot, Governor Bob Riley addressed the Andalusia Civitan Club at Tabby D's Friday afternoon.

The speech lasted one hour, but Riley urged citizens to gather as much information as possible about the referendum. There were still "major components" of the package which he didn't have time to address, he said, and the referendum is such a big change, he didn't have time to discuss all the changes.

Supplements to his speech were provided to the audience, however. Pamphlets entitled "Laying the Foundation for Greatness" with facts about Riley's plan were passed out to the crowd.

"I'm not going to tell you how to vote," Riley said.

"The only thing I can ask you to do, ladies and gentlemen, is to take one of these little books.

It will tell you how much your property taxes going up will be; it will tell you how much you're income tax will be, whether you have one, two, or three children.

And decide for yourself: Are you willing to invest that much more to turn this state around?"

Television commercials and other advertisements by those in opposition of the referendum aren't giving the truth to the average worker, Riley said.

"So when you hear (these commercials) about taxes going up 300 and 400 percent, it's nonsense," he said. "The thing that is driving me crazy, for so many people out there today, they get up at 6 o'clock in the morning and go to work, and they work all day for nine dollars an hour to come home to take a bath and then they're back on the job. They're worried about making a car payment, they're worried about making a mortgage payment, they're worried about putting groceries on the kids' table and getting them in and out of school.

They don't have the time to sit down, go through this thing and understand it.

"And when I see these TV commercials, one says you're going to get a tax cut, another says taxes are going up 300 and 400 percent. If they don't understand and are confused, they will invariably and without question, vote no. When I look around the state today and every poll that we make, the people who will be paying a little more, are supporting it. But we're losing 8-1 over in the Black Belt. Where we are losing this is in the people it helps. For us to watch this come down, because people are confused, is wrong."

Riley reiterated his point about accountability of Amendment 1, assuring the crowd anyone who breaks those measures of accountability outlined in the package would be arrested.

"The opponents of this plan tried to attack it for the first few weeks, and they figured out there is nothing in this plan that doesn't make sense," he said.

"They came up with this negative concept this money is not going towards education. (This book) tells you exactly where this money is going. I can't stand up here and tell you that kids would get (tuition) scholarships and then come back and say I was just kidding. I can't tell you all (we're implementing) the reading initiative and math initiative, and distance learning in every school in our state and not do it. We have said where the money goes, and there is no question about where it goes.

"You have always had two things: Special Education Trust Fund and General Trust Fund.

For the first time, we've set up a third fund.

We've set up an Alabama Excellence Initiative Fund, and what makes it so truly unique is you can't appropriate money out of that fund for more than one year at a time.

"Last year, there was $56 million worth of pass-through pork; and you know what happens if this goes down, there is noting I can do about it next year. If this (package) passes, for the first time in the state, anybody who participates in pass-through pork will be arrested. The opponents say there is not enough accountability, but I'm going to tell you given the option of doing nothing for 40 years, and then putting a guy in jail next year if he (participates in pass-through pork).

That is a lot of accountability we have never had before.

The state has the potential to be at the top of educational rankings, and the voters of Alabama have three options for the future, Riley said.

"(Here's) your three choices: cut backs to the point of the state being dysfunctional, raise three-fourths of the billion dollars (for education) to stay where we are at dead last, or transform this state," he said.

"Is it going to cost you money? Yeah. I wish I could (make the transformation) without (raising taxes), but I can't. I want you to think about what taking 3/4 of a billion dollars out of our budget would do."

The 22nd Covington Drug Task Force, an organization which could face cancellation if Amendment 1 doesn't pass, presented Riley with a T-shirt and hat.

"We'd like to thank you for everything you've done for Alabama, and will do to help us continue the fight against drugs," said a DTF agent to Riley.

The reform in education through Amendment 1 could make Alabama number one in the country within 10 years, said Riley.