Published 2:54 pm Monday, May 12, 2003
Alabama should follow governor's lead
In the early part of the 21st Century, Alabama faces a financial crisis unparalleled since the end of the Civil War. The reasons and causes for this situation are still up for discussion.
Is it the state's out-dated constitution, which carries with it regressive taxes and targets those who can least afford it? Or, is it wasteful spending at the state level, which in the past has allowed for a state vehicle to almost anyone who wanted one?
Whatever the causes, Alabama is broke and in debt.
Early in his campaign to become governor, Bob Riley pledged a "new day" in Alabama. And for a Republican governor - only the third elected since Reconstruction - to be contemplating raising taxes, it must be truly be a "new day."
In a recent meeting with the BNI Editorial Board, Gov. Riley indicated he would consider a tax increase, but only when all other means had been exhausted and after every possible cut has been made.'
It seems that has been done.
Since taking office, Riley has cut, cut some more, and cut further. To date, estimates place those cuts at nearly $200 million. However, that figure is far short of the projected $500 million funding shortfall the state faces. In that meeting, Riley said he would bank whatever political capital he had in fixing the state's problems. "Why put a Band-Aid on the problem," Riley asked. "If we are going to fix it, let's fix it fundamentally and once and for all so that future governors do not have to face this same problem."
But what may be inevitable may mean the end of Riley's political future in Alabama, a future he obviously is willing to risk.
No one likes to see their taxes raised. However, we may have reached the point where we hate seeing our school buildings crumbling and our students falling behind even more than we hate the thought of paying additional taxes.
Alabama must follow the lead of Gov. Riley in his push to solve the state's financial problems. This state, and its people, must show the same commitment of assuring our children a bright future. And if that means a tax increase, which is fair and goes for the common good of this state, then so be it.
Alabama, it is time. It is time to bank on Alabama's future.