Lines forming on Riley's plan
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY – The lines are already forming in the upcoming election on Gov. Bob Riley's $1.2 billion tax-accountability package.
Some think his historic proposal is the best thing since sliced bread, others warn it will bring economic disaster to the state. And one high state official, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, sounds like she may go to the cabbage patch on election day.
Baxley, a Democrat who presided over the Senate when the package was passed, says she will play no part in the campaign for or against the legislation. As to how she will vote, she said that remains to be seen.
Others have been more outspoken, for and against.
Predictably, State School Superintendent Dr. Ed Richardson is an outspoken supporter of the plan, and so is Dr. David Bronner, the CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA). Bronner lauded Gov. Riley for having the courage to attack a problem which previous governors had ignored.
The plan came under a withering and surprising attack from Alabama's biggest banker–Wallace Malone Jr., CEO of SouthTrust. Ironically, Malone had been a major supporter of Riley's campaign for governor in 2002 and was a contributor to a group which helped Riley draw up his tax plan.
Malone said the tax package proposed by the governor "will result in the loss of 30,000 jobs or more as businesses and people scramble to pay these taxes."
He also suggested that the estimate of $1.2 billion the taxes will generate is low–Malone predicted the proposals would hike taxes by more than $1.5 billion.
While Malone was coming down with both feet on the plan, not so another major business leader–Charles McCrary, the president of Alabama Power Company.
In a speech to a Birmingham civic club, McCrary strongly endorsed the Riley plan.
"When you go vote Sept. 9, ask yourself these three questions," McCrary said. "If not now, when? If not this, what? If not us, who?"
It was one of the best parties of the year.
Not so the final day of the 2003 Regular Session. It was, unaccountably, the most productive day of the session. After wasting day after day in a fight over control in the Senate, the logjam was broken on that last day and observers saw what could be called a "two minute drill" like never seen before. The Legislature passed dozens of bills in those waning hours, including a number of major significance. After 15 years of trying the lawmakers approved a Voter ID bill; also passed was a controversial measure which will make it much easier for ex-felons to have their voting rights restored. Another bill enacted into law will standardize polling hours, and most important to Gov. Riley, also approved was a measure authorizing a supplemental appropriation of $39 million which he said was necessary if several state departments could get through the remainder of the fiscal year. He had warned that he would call a special session for that measure if it did not pass.
A jury returned a record-breaking assessment of $4.3 billion. If my math is correct that award…if ever paid, which is unlikely…would net the attorneys an incredible fee of more than $500 million dollars. Exxon Mobil predictably appealed the award and that case will be retried in October. By the way, Gov.Riley has joined the lawsuit and he has retained to represent him former Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley, whose record in lawsuits of this sort is legendary.