First Gubernatorial Debate: Taxes

Patricia Dedrick, Montgomery Bureau Chief for the Birmingham News:

Congressman Riley, in Randolph County, which is in your congressional district, a certain timber company pays $2.07 in property tax (per acre) for its land and timber. In Carroll County, Georgia, that same company pays an average of $6.82 per acre. Both figures were derived from last fall's tax bills. Alabama has the lowest property tax in the nation. Would you support raising property taxes?

Congressman Riley:

Tricia, I've said ever since I got into this race, which was over a year ago that we need a tax reform policy and it needs to be comprehensive. I don't know that I want to single out property tax because every state has a different mix of tax.

If you look at Florida, they don't have an income tax, so they charge more in property tax. Every state has a different combination. But I believe that we need a tax reform policy. And I also think that we are uniquely situated to do that today.

We have so many people out there today that are saying the tax code that we have in the state is unfair. When we charge someone an income tax that makes less than $5,000 a year, no one can defend that. When you look at our overall tax structure, it has become so convoluted that no one likes what we have today.

But today we have a unique coalition, where you have the Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians and we have the business community all saying reform taxes. I want to do that. I don't know that I've ever heard the governor saying that he does. If I'm elected, I promise you that will happen.

Patricia Dedrick:

Congressman, how does ALFA's endorsement of your candidacy affect your willingness to support increasing property taxes?

Congressman Riley:

You know, if you look at anyone who supports me today. I go back to what Ronald Reagan said, if somebody supports me they're supporting my policies and my philosophy and my ideology. It doesn't mean that I necessarily support theirs. And if you look across the whole spectrum of associations, and business communities, and hospitals, and nurses - they're all supporting our campaign. They're supporting it for one reason. They want this state to change and they understand it is not going to change under the present administration. That's the reason they're supporting my candidacy.

Governor Siegelman:

Miss Dedrick, I think everybody knows that in Alabama our tax system weighs most heavily upon those who can least afford to pay. Those that make the least pay the most in this state, and the giant corporations which make the most pay the least. I want to change that. My opponent has been voting for every big business tax break that has come across his desk since he's been in Congress.

He's even advocating and voting for no corporate income tax at all. In fact, he voted for a bill that would give Enron back $250-million in taxes they had already paid. He has advocated a 17% sales tax as his method of reforming our tax system. I want to bring more money into education. I am opposed to raising money on the working people of the state when there are giant corporations that pay nothing to our schools. It is wrong and it needs to be stopped.