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Sunday, August 17, 2003

Quote du Jour
We applaud tax relief for the poor. You'll find most Alabamians have got a charitable heart; they want to do that. They just don't want it coming out of their pocket. -- Christian Coalition of Alabama President John Giles, quoted in today's Washington Post.

Long-time blog readers (thanks to both of you!) know that I pay a little more attention to Alabama than I do to most of the red states. I lived in Montgomery for 7 1/2 years. So when the Army decides to burn chemical weapons in Anniston, or Montgomery brags about giving Hyundai a $126 million bribe to locate a factory there, I pay attention.

Right now the big story in Alabama is a statewide referendum to change the state's extremely regressive tax code. I'll let Republican Party Chairman Marty Connors explain:

We've got a conservative, evangelical Christian, Republican governor trying to get a massive turnout of black voters to pass a tax increase so he can raise taxes on Republican constituents.

You see, somewhere along the line Governor Bob Riley decided that being a Christian, in the good sense of the word, was more important than being a Republican. He observed that the tax code was asking more from those who had little, relatively speaking, than from those with much.

The plan would raise the tax threshold from $4,600 to $20,000 for a family of four, and raise the exemption per child from $300 to $2,200, which Riley says would cut or leave income taxes unchanged for two-thirds of the state's taxpayers. The top third of earners would pay more, as would corporations and large land and timber holders. Alabama's lowest-in-the-nation property taxes would rise on average to $490 a year on a $100,000 home (a $136 increase) and to $1,540 on a $250,000 home (a $536 increase), according to the governor's figures.

Amazingly, Republicans may end up leading the way to the "kinder, gentler nation" that Bush Sr. pretended to want. Illinois' Republican Governor George Ryan may have done more than anyone else towards the eventual elimination of the death penalty in this country when he commuted all death row sentences to life imprisonment last January. Alabama's Riley is hopefully striking a key blow for progressive taxation, as well as showing people that being Republican and being Christian are completely different things. And as for getting the neocon fanatics out of the White House, I have at least as much faith in Republicans like John McCain, Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe and Richard Shelby as I do in Democrats like Tom Daschle, Joe Biden, Diane Feinstein, or Hillary Clinton.