Huntsville, Alabama
June 14, 2003

Note: This message was prepared before the thunderous news of Ed Richardson's attempted blackmail. He is threatening to close all schools unless Alabama voters do as he says. This, to say the very least, will call for much discussion among us.

Dear Fellow Republican,

The average American taxpayer works until approximately April 27th to earn income to pay an entire year's worth of taxes. That means that the average American works 117 days per year to pay their taxes to federal, state, and local taxes. In Alabama, the combined tax burden on each individual is 29.1%. Nearly 30 cents of every dollar you earn will be sent to some level of government. Clearly taxes are out of control.

The bizarre nature of Alabama politics is not diminishing. Just eight months ago Governor Riley, then Congressman Riley, wrote the words just quoted. But today? Well, no matter that governments take from us everything we earn from the New Year to the middle of spring, no matter that taxes are "clearly out of control," no matter that Bob Riley has consistently received the "Hero of the Taxpayer" award, the same man who so recently understood the awful burden of heavy taxation seems to have had his memory wiped clean. Today, in concert with the Czar of the largest labor union in the state, the liberal Democrat Paul Hubbert, the erstwhile conservative Bob Riley is proposing the largest tax increase ever to be placed on the people of Alabama.

In the same letter from which the quotation above was taken, Riley said that he strongly supports "legislation to lower the tax burden on the American people." Today he is strongly supporting legislation to enormously increase the tax burden on those American people who live in Alabama.

Where to look for an understanding of such an abrupt metamorphosis? The pressure of the Governor's job? An unannounced epiphany of some kind? A simple error in judgment? In some arcane psychological factor? Where? Republicans, and others, look on in wonderment.

Meanwhile there is encouraging news from former Republican congressman and Majority Leader Dick Armey. He is now Co-Chairman of Citizens for a Sound Economy, a strong conservative group in Washington which urges fiscal responsibility in government. CSE has announced its opposition to the Hubbert-Riley $1.3 billion tax package, and Armey himself, who served with Riley in Congress, has issued a statement in opposition.

"If it moves in Alabama, it seems like the Governor wants to tax it. Vending machines? Motor oil? Mortgages? It's outrageous," Armey said. He said that Riley should work to cut spending, not raise taxes. In a key phrase, he also said that it's hard to believe that anyone "would suggest such a harmful action to Alabama taxpayers."

Everyone who opposes Hubbert-Riley is hopeful that Armey will appear in Alabama sometime during the big tax fight that is brewing.

But let's go back to Armey's statement and his reference to "such a harmful action." He is a former economics teacher and he understands these things. He used the right word: harmful. He knows the harmful effects, on individuals and on the whole economy, of seizing citizens honestly-earned money to feed the glutinous bureaucracy.

Even before the tax plan is voted on we are already seeing its negative effects. Tenaska, a company which operates two electrical generating plants in Autauga County, may cancel plans to build two new plants in Talladega County because of the anticipated effect the Hubbert-Riley tax bill would have on it.

A company spokesman said that the new taxes would "change the economics of being in Alabama negatively." He added that his company would "probably choose to build in other places."

Tenaska has invested more that $500 million in the two plants it already has in the state. It paid $8.9 million in sales taxes when it was building its plants, and $1.1 million in local property taxes in Autauga County last year. The Chairman of the Autauga County Commission said that the company has been "pretty much of a lifesaver for us, both the county and the Board of Education over the last two or three years."

So Armey is right. This tax increase, like all tax increases, will have a dampening effect on the economy, and because of the astounding size of the increase-Tenaska says the increase on their property taxes is 170 percent-- the effect will be profound. Only an ostrich would not expect more Tenaskas to follow.

The Hubbert-Riley Tax Plan will serve Paul Hubbert and his union well. But not Alabama's economy or its citizens.

A Personal Note: I have collected quite a few responses to these letters and will publish them as soon as I can get them formatted for the web. They will include an especially interesting letter from former gubernatorial candidate Tim James. At present I am behind in everything. This is my wife's fault. She dragged me (kicking and screaming) down to the beach for a week and I haven't caught up yet. But I will. Pray have patience. And continue to let me have your thoughts. They have great value.

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Sincerely yours,

Hugh McInnish
Madison County, Place 1
State Executive Committee