Never let fear dictate your decisions

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 30, 2003

We’re told that only two things in life are certain: Death and Taxes. Because there isn’t a need to harp on any local politicians or infantile community dissenters, we’ll talk today about things that are certain.

Actually, it’s probably best if we skip the talk on death. It’s certain, but we certainly don’t have to talk about it. Instead (and you can count on a few more of these before Sept. 9), I thought this would be a good place to pass on some I’ve had about Gov. Bob Riley’s proposed tax increase for Alabama.

(To many of you, I understand you don’t want to read about taxes, so I bid you a good week and hope to have you back reading this page next week.)

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For those who have remained, it’s likely you know most of the particulars about Riley’s tax increase plan. You know the hike is the largest in state history. You know the governor wants to raise about $1.2 billion in order to forever save the funding crisis of the state. You know he wants to increase property taxes and cut sales taxes. You know the highest income earners will be hurt more than any other class of people.

Here are some other things you may or may not know. If this tax increase doesn’t pass, State Superintendent of Education Ed Richardson has already said that all public schools may close down next year.

You may have heard that owners of Alabama timber land will go out of business because they won’t be able to afford the hike in property taxes.

You may have heard that Alabama will have to pull hundreds of state troopers off the roads if the tax doesn’t pass.

You even may have heard that an increase in taxes will mean that new industries &045;&045; like Mercedes and Hyundai and Honda &045;&045; will never again locate in Alabama because taxes are so high.

I wouldn’t dare pretend to know all the answers about the tax increase and what it will mean to Alabama. I haven’t tried to call the CEO of Mercedes and get his take on the whole ordeal. I haven’t called South Korea or any other major manufacturer and inquired as to their thoughts on a new tax package in Alabama.

For that matter, I haven’t talked to Gov. Riley yet. I haven’t seen the invoices that come through Montgomery each week and I don’t know how much Alabama owes or how much Alabama can afford to cut in terms of spending.

Here’s what I do know: Most every reader of this column will not know these things either. When Sept. 9 rolls around and you’re asked to vote on the largest tax increase this state has ever seen, your phone call to South Korea probably won’t be returned.

In order to effectively make a decision on the tax increase proposed by Riley and members of the Alabama legislature, you’re going to have to make up your mind on only one account: Do you trust that Alabama government will take care of the investment you will make if you vote for a new tax?

If you trust government to solve all the education needs of the state, then you’ll vote yes. If you believe senators and representatives will take that money and build more museums and football fields, then you better not vote for the tax. If you don’t have any idea either way, I encourage you to form an opinion in the next two months and make your voice heard anyway.

While each person will have to make a personal judgment on government trust, I’d like to offer the only bit of assistance I can.

As a journalist, I use words and I watch how other people use words. Any time a person begins a sentence with "if," then I think they’re playing with your mind.

Watch out.

Watch out.

Both Gov. Riley and those opposed to a tax increase have already been found guilty of the "If Threat," as I like to call it.

Shortly after Riley was able to get his tax legislation passed through the House and Senate, he sent out a press release about a rather large drug bust in east Alabama. First of all, readers should know that governors don’t usually send out press releases about drug busts. Those releases are saved for the FBI or local sheriff’s department or Alabama Bureau of Investigation.

In this case, however, Riley sent out a release and let people know that one of the biggest drug busts in Alabama had taken place. At the end of the release, Riley was found guilty of the "If Threat." (In this case, he actually used the word "unless," which means the same thing.)

Shortly after Riley’s plan came out, an opponent to the tax package said that "if" Alabama approves the plan, large corporations won’t look at Alabama the same way.

To make this real simple, it’s my opinion that those who vote based on fear are voting for the wrong reasons. As you prepare to make a decision about this tax increase, don’t listen to the news stories that play on emotions.

Raising taxes (and taking money from our pockets) is not an emotional decision. Instead, it’s a decision that has to be made on facts &045;&045; not the fear of losing schools and police protection.