Riley off to good start with Cabinet

MONTGOMERY&045; When he was stumping the state for votes, Bob Riley promised that his &uot;new day&uot; in Montgomery would include a Cabinet unlike any assembled before.

He got off to a good start in keeping that promise when he filled the top position in his cabinet, that of finance director.

Named to the position was Drayton Nabers, who is about as politically clean, as we say in the trade, as any person you could find.

Nabors is chairman of the board of the giant (Assets: $17 billion) Protective Live Insurance Company, having previously served as chief executive officer of Protective.

There is nothing in his resum that suggests he has any political axes to grind.

Nabors may set a record of sorts in the size of the pay cut he will have to take in becoming finance director.

Presently as chairman of Protective as well as membership on several other boards, he makes an estimated $250,000 a year.

He will have to give that up when he becomes finance director, a job that pays about $85,000 a year.

To add emphasis to the perception of how non-political he is, in accepting the appointment Nabors noted that Alabama’s tax system is &uot;regressive and represssive and intolerable.&uot;

&uot;We need to change it to be fairer to the poorer people of this state,&uot; he said.

That comment had to cause some unease in the offices of ALFA, which was one of Riley’s biggest supporters.

Any overhaul of the state’s tax system will surely mean taking a long look at the state’s property tax rates &045; the lowest in the nation. ALFA likes the property taxes just like they are.

With apologies to Gen. Custer and his men who met their end at the Battle of Little Big Horn, it can now be reported that what had been billed as the &uot;Battle of the Little Bull Horns&uot; has been averted.

State Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, who had threatened to drown out the inauguration of Gov.-elect Bob Riley with bull horns if he did not pay proper respect to the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has come to an accomodation with the inaugural organizers.

Holmes had insisted that the inaugural parade include a float paying tribute to Dr. King. He also demanded that Mrs. Johnnie Carr, an activist in the Civil Rights movement, be allowed to speak during the ceremony.

The Riley people agreed to the float but initially had shown some reluctance about including Mrs. Carr on the program.

In the end, wiser heads prevailed and Mrs. Carr was added to the list of speakers.

At first glance, the comments by the head of the Alabama State Employees Association (ASEA) might have seemed most magnanimous.

Mac McArthur, ASEA’s executive director, issued a statement saying state employees did not expect a payraise to be included in the 2004 budget.

He could have added that he didn’t expect the sun to rise in the West.

For one reason, the economy is in such terrible shape that the likelihood of anybody associated with state government getting a payraise is slim and none … for another, Gov.-elect Riley has no reason to look too kindly on McArthur or ASEA, which went overboard in the 2002 election in supporting Gov. Siegelman.

If anything, state employees better hope that in the talked-about effort to make taxes fairer in Alabama that somebody doesn’t come up with the idea of requiring public employees in Alabama to pay state income taxes on their retirement benefits.

Unlike most of you in the private sector, their state retirement benefits are tax exempt.

One final comment on the University of Alabama coaching controversy.

While Dennis Franchione took a terrible beating when he departed, similar treatment is being given to Mike Price, who abruptly left Washington State to come to Alabama.

Along the way, Alabama folks, in general, are taking a beating as well.

One Seattle columnist took a shot at all of us for what he described as our obsession with football, to wit:

&uot;There is a legend in Alabama that an Alabama fan shot and killed his wife when she switched TV channels during the Alabama-Auburn game. The judge ruled it was justifiable homicide.&uot;

Smart judge