Saturday, August 16, 2003

Alabama Governor Bob Riley is a very, very bad Republican.

Which is very, very good. Because he's a bad Republican, he's willing to fundamentally change Alabama's tax system so that the wealthiest pay a larger percentage of their income in taxes than the poor:

The born-again Baptist governor is telling voters in this Bible Belt state that their tax system, which imposes an effective rate of 3 percent on the wealthiest Alabamians and 12 percent on the poorest, is "immoral" and needs repair. "When I read the New Testament, there are three things we're asked to do: That's love God, love each other and take care of the least among us," Riley said in his office in the antebellum state Capitol.

It's hard to believe, and that's the problem. The poor voters he needs to pass his plan don't believe it will help:

[P]olls show the strongest opposition is among black voters, who make up about a fourth of the electorate, and people with incomes under $30,000 -- the very Alabamians who would receive the largest tax cuts. Riley and his emissaries are campaigning hard among black voters, who opposed him overwhelmingly in November. He is encountering distrust embedded in Alabama history.
"Black people in particular and poor people in general have always been very suspicious when somebody in Montgomery says, 'I'm going to help you,' because usually in the end we get ripped off," said state Sen. Hank Sanders, an influential black politician.

It doesn't help that the usual suspects are attacking it in the most vile possible way:

Riley's opponents also have targeted black voters, airing a radio ad on stations with mostly black audiences featuring a man with poor diction warning, "Our property taxes could go up as much as fo' hundred percent," and blaming "Montgomery insiders who have been ignorin' us for years." The ad was paid for by a political action committee whose top contributors are the state's largest bank, a leading insurance company, two timber and paper companies and county farmers federations -- all of which supported Riley last November. The state farmers federation also controls the insurance company, which would lose a large tax break that gives it an advantage over other insurers.

Naturally, they have help from their cohorts outside Alabama: The American Conservative Union, Citizens for a Sound Economy, National Taxpayers Union, Eagle Forum, and Family Research Council.

"If this can pass in Alabama, it could be a precedent to attempt it elsewhere, and muddy the anti-tax message," [Alabama Republican Party Chair Marty] Connors said. Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, who gave Riley as congressman his group's Friend of the Taxpayer Award every year from 1997 through 2002, vowed to make Riley "the poster child for Republicans who go bad. I want every conservative Republican elected official in the United States to watch Bob Riley lose and learn from it."

Wouldn't it be nice if they saw him win? If you think so, you can contribute to the effort.