Riley’s tax package is hot topic

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Everywhere I go these days, the topic of conversation centers on the Governor’s tax package.

It is hot. It is emotional.

It is separating friends and foes alike. It is a war of words.

Right now, people are split right down the middle on the issue.

Some believe the tax hike is outrageous and some people believe we have to do something.

The bottom line is that we have to come up with $675 million dollars for our state budget by Oct. 1 or else it is curtains.

Some say no more taxes period. Just burn it down. Slash and cut to the bone.

Businesses do it all the time and they make it. We can, too.

I understand but what’s at stake is unthinkable: we will have to close two prisons and release nearly five thousand criminals back onto our streets, plus send nearly seven thousand elderly nursing home patients back to their homes.

That’s just for starters.

Our elderly, our young, our disabled, our law-abiding citizens will have to bear the brunt of the massive budget cuts that will make up $675 million.

That’s just unacceptable.

Gov. Riley has stepped up to the plate like Ronald Reagan and taken charge.

I applaud him for that.

It may mean that he is a one term governor. He inherited a financial mess when he was elected. He knew it was bad. He didn’t know it was this bad.

He cut out $230 million dollars of fat in his first few weeks.

But it didn’t scratch the surface.

He told us in private meetings that had he had just six more months he could have probably cut the budget down and avoided tax hikes altogether. But he ran out of time.

Now it’s raise taxes or slash and mangle state services at the expense of the most vulnerable people in Alabama.

We simply can’t do that.

Gov. Riley does not enjoy this tax hike request.

Never do I enjoy voting for it. We both hate it.

But the consequences of proposed budget cuts are just unthinkable.

Please pray for us.

And pray that Alabamians will study this issue and understand what’s at stake.

I believe when they hear the whole story, they will agree that Gov. Riley has done the right thing and will vote to give his program a chance.

Sen. Hank Erwin represents Shelby County in the State Legislature. He Riley resides in Alabaster