First Gubernatorial Debate: Taxes Question II

John Anderson, political editor of the Huntsville Times:

Congressman Riley, it's been well reported you're a self made millionaire starting in the poultry business, I believe, with your brother and several other businesses and you also own a spread, a farm, I think maybe it's your grandfather's farm in Ashland. My two pronged question is this and I do have a follow up, how much do you pay in property taxes per acre on that farm? And in light of the fact that Alabama is far and away the lowest property tax state in the nation, and our budget woes, do you think that's enough?

Congressman Riley:

Well, going back to what I said before John. I think we need a comprehensive tax reform policy in this state. Property tax has to be a part of it, but we have to look at our income tax thatI think disenfranchises the poorest among us. I think we have to look at our sales tax, we have to look at ad valorem tax, we have to look at all these taxes. You know the property tax that I pay in Clay County Alabama, it is not whether or not I can afford to pay that tax. What happens to that person who is living on a fixed income, who doesn't have the ability to pay an increased property tax. That's the person that I worry about.

There are so many people out there today that are trying to make it on a very limited fixed income and every time we increase their property tax it becomes more and more difficult for them to be able to retain that property. If you look at some of the countries in this state, over the last 8-10 years then property tax has already doubled just because of reassessment. I'm not too sure I want to go in and continue to lay tax on top of tax after tax on the people of Alabama.

John Anderson:

It's now become two pronged because I do want to reiterate my first question. What do you pay per acre on your farm and secondly, Alabama taxes baby food but it does not tax poultry chicken feed, is that fair?

Congressman Riley:

It is fair. I'm not too sure that we shouldn't take the tax off of food products. I'm not too sure we shouldn't take the taxes off prescription drugs because there are too many people out there today that are having to make a choice about whether or not to buy a prescription drug or whether or not they are going to be able to pay their power bill.

That is a distinction we have to make. I can't give you a clear cut answer to how much I pay per acre because I have different classifications for each piece of property. I've got timber property. I've got pasture. I've got residential property, and I've got commercial property.

But, the only thing that I'm saying is that if we're going to have a tax plan, we need it to be comprehensive across the board. That is the only way we will ever change the economy in Alabama.

Governor Siegelman:

Talk about not answering questions! And then he talks about people on fixed incomes. How can you talk about that everyone should share the pain, which is what you said, that you thought everyone should share the pain in some type of the reform effort. I don't believe that, I don't believe they should. I think the people of Alabama watching this program tonight are already in pain. How can you propose a 17% national sales tax and not think that impacts people on fixed incomes or poor people and how can he vote for a $50 billion tax increase that raises taxes and costs on things like children's vaccines, calling cards, and people who use airlines.

An how can you support congressman, abolishing all corporate income tax. This man does not believe corporations should pay anything. He has voted that way in Congress.