Writin and Rithmetic:
Back to School Guide for the Alabama Governor
only was Governor Bob Rileys $1.2 billion tax increase defeated
it was bludgeoned to death with only 33% of voters voting
"yes." On September 9th, Alabama voters sent a resounding
message to politicians in Montgomery no new taxes. The question
is not "why did the measure lose" but "why did the
measure lose so badly?"
June 2003, the Alabama legislature placed Amendment One, a constitutional
amendment, on the ballot for voter approval. Containing a conglomeration
of 19 legislative bills, it proposed significant increases in income
taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, cigarette taxes and the corporate
income tax (to name just a few). Like screeching tires on a busy
roadway, the message of the proposal echoed across the state.
a $675 million budget shortfall, Governor Riley attempted to tax
his way out of an inherited problem rather than fix the problem
head on. Whats worse, the tax increase didnt just fix
the budget shortfall; it also added an additional $525 million in
new program spending.
Governor Riley should go back to school to re-learn the basics.
Had he followed some of the basic rules of accounting, leadership
and ethics, he might have earned an "A." But on September
9th, voters gave the governor a big fat "F."
101: The first lesson students learn in arithmetic is one plus one
equals two. In the case of Amendment One, a $675 million budget
shortfall equaled a $1.2 billion tax increase. This left voters
scratching their heads. As products of the Alabama public school
system, voters were continually told they were the dumbest graduates
in the country at least thats what the test scores
said. But perhaps voters did learn that one plus one does equal
two, and what the governor proposed simply did not add up.
101: In most states, the use of public resources or facilities is
illegal in any campaign. You wouldnt know that by the way
the pro-tax campaign was handled in Alabama. Principals and teachers
were provided "Vote Yes" signs, pro-Amendment One literature
was posted in public offices and some schools proudly displayed
"Vote Yes" signs on their front lawns. The governor went
so far as to replacing the typical elevator muzak or silence on
the public office phone system "hold line" with a pro-Amendment
One message, complete with instructions to the listener: "Vote
yes on September 9th."
101: What ever happened to the days when politicians kissed babies?
Those days are apparently gone in Alabama, or at least for the Riley
Administration. Instead of wooing voters with sweet compliments
and southern charm, Riley resorted to the catchphrase, "Alabama
is last in everything good and first in everything bad." His
policy director, David Stewart, even went so far as to call the
people of Alabama "stupid" when asked why the governors
plan was doing poorly in the polls. To make matters worse, Charles
Blair, president of the Huntsville school board called opponents
of the plan "idiots" and "morons."
can beat a dog into submission. It will listen for a while and do
what you say, but eventually the dog will come back and bite you.
Alabama voters bit the governor and they bit hard.
school is complete without a playground bully. Once again, proponents
of the Riley plan used scare tactics to make their point: claiming
that over 400,000 senior citizens would be forced out of nursing
homes, schools would close and convicts would run free. These scare
tactics begged many questions including, "what happened to
the states federal bailout money?"
February 2003, Governor Riley announced a $100 million deficit in
the states Medicaid plan while lobbying Congress for federal
money. Congress gave him $120 million for his Medicaid "money
crunch" plus an additional $151 million in "free money,"
money that could be used towards something like, well, reducing
the states budget shortfall! With regard to school closings,
administration officials never once explained why, over the past
30 years, the number of principals, teachers and school administrators
increased on average by 40 to 50 percent while the number of students
decreased by 14 percent.
is probably one class that the tax-and-spend politicians in Montgomery
could pass at the end of this hypothetical semester at school
Creative Writing. The ballot question asked voters to allow the
legislature to increase funding for programs like public education,
college scholarships, health care benefits for senior citizens,
etc. Yet the wording of the amendment didnt even earmark
the new revenue for the programs specifically listed in the ballot
question. Deceitfully, the question failed to ask voters if they
would approve a tax increase, it simply asked them to allow legislators
to "adjust" various taxes. (Noah Webster would roll over
in his grave).
the work of opponents like the Tax Accountability Coalition, South
Alabamians For Real Reform and the Alabama Christian Coalition,
voters would have been misled by the question. These groups, along
with many national groups, educated Alabamians not on what the ballot
question did say, but on what the ballot question did not say.
aligning himself with the teachers union, public state employees
union and members of his opposition party (to name just a few),
Governor Riley should get down on his knees and pray that those
who opposed his tax grab will forgive and forget. The governor even
went so far as to tell the people of Alabama that voting "yes"
would be the "Christian" thing to do.
only has the governor lost the support of his own political base,
he has now become friends with people akin to Judas. Jesus eventually
forgave Judas, but the people of Alabama may not be so quick to
do the same. Maybe, and just maybe, if Governor Riley shows folks
he can walk on water by balancing the budget in a sensible, fiscally
responsible manner, he may regain the trust of Alabamians. But then
again, maybe someone should just throw him a lifejacket and let
him fend for himself.
NOTE: Karen Bailey recently joined the Center for Individual Freedom
as the Vice President for Public Affairs. She joined the Center
after working as a state projects manager at Americans for Tax Reform
where she played an integral role in the effort to defeat Alabamas
$1.2 billion tax increase referendum.
September 12, 2003]
to State Issues
to Freedom Line