Tax hike watched by local leaders

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 22, 2003

When District Attorney Greg Griggers walks into his office today, he knows he’ll have to get by with the bare minimum.

As for Dr. Walter Davis, superintendent of the Linden City School System, well, he doesn’t even know how long he’ll have a system.

Griggers and Davis are just two of the tens of thousands of business people who will keep a watchful eye on Gov. Bob Riley over the next few months. For the most part, they’ll watch to see if Riley can convince a tax-despising state to pass a $1.2 billion tax hike on itself. A statewide referendum on the tax increase will be held Sept. 9.

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On top of that, doesn’t even have a full-time assistant district attorney &045;&045; a luxury most DA offices have.

Griggers and Davis face the same problem: The state doesn’t have enough money to fund crucial needs, and the only way Riley believes the problem can be solved is to have voters pass the largest tax increase in state history.

A survey released earlier this week indicates a hair-thin majority of voters in Alabama don’t like the idea one bit. The Mobile Register and University of South Alabama surveyed 410 adults, and 51 percent of the respondents already said they would vote against the tax package. If that number holds steady until through the summer, Riley and state leaders have suggested that law enforcement personnel and school teachers will lose their jobs.

For that matter, State Superintendent of Education Ed Richardson warned earlier this week that if Riley’s tax package doesn’t pass, all public schools in the state will be closed down in September.

Pepper Bryars, deputy press secretary for Gov. Riley, believes school superintendents will be the best salespeople Riley has to get the tax package passed.

While Bryars promised that Riley will launch a full-scale campaign to get the package passed, he also knows voters will have to commit to learning what the tax hike really means to them.

To people like Griggers, the fate of Riley’s tax package could drastically change the way court is run in Marengo County.

If there is one place where Riley is likely to focus his efforts to get the tax bill passed, it may come in this area of the state.

According to the Mobile Register-USA survey, Riley’s package has the least support in Alabama’s Black Belt.