Riley tax increase a possibility

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 29, 2002

Bob Riley isn’t governor yet, but there’s already talk about how Alabama’s funding crisis will be fixed under his leadership.

And not all the talk is good if you like lower taxes.

David Lanoue, chairman of The University of Alabama’s political science department, said that the new governor may resort to a tax or fee increase to stave off Alabama’s funding crisis.

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“My guess is that his attempt to solve the funding crisis by reducing fat is not going to succeed to the point that he wants it to,” said Lanoue. “It will fail partly because the state budget is fairly lean and because the needs are quite substantial.”

Becky Nichols, director of the Selma/Dallas County Public Library, understands what it’s like to have a budget.

Nichols said she admires any government official trying to correct problems with the budget, but was concerned about what Riley’s definition of “fat” would be.

Nichols said that she didn’t know what Riley considered fat, but hoped that it wasn’t education, saying that it is her top priority.

“I’m in the business of education,” Nichols said.

Nichols also said that she couldn’t conceive of a government that wouldn’t put education at the top of its list, and added that she wouldn’t want government to cut education’s current funds.

Alabama is on the verge of making some big decisions, Nichols said, including the addition of a Hyundai plant near Montgomery. People looking to build businesses in Alabama will be looking at the state’s education before they make a decision to move here, she added.

Concerning a possible tax hike by Riley, Lanoue said that the future governor kept the option open.

“There was one thing he said…if all else failed he would consider calling for a tax increase. I think it was significant that he left that door open.”

Lanoue added that he thought the tax increase might not be in the form of a property tax hike, but instead come in the shape of increased home rule.

More home rule, Lanoue said, could let counties raise local taxes themselves and not have to get the state legislature’s approval to do so or hold a state referendum.

Nichols said that while no one likes increased taxes she didn’t know of anyone who wouldn’t be willing to spend a few more dollars toward education.

Higher taxes, Nichols said, when directed toward higher goals might be a good idea.

However, Nichols said that the money raised from such endeavors would only be a worthy cause if it was designated for a purpose like education.

Government has gotten large and unwieldy, Nichols added, and some places are getting funds that they don’t need.