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School leaders hear pitch for Riley tax plan

Nancy Beggs, state director of career technical education, asked three questions about Governor Bob Riley’s tax reform plan. "If not this, then what? "…No one else has put a plan on the table.

Beggs gave a comprehensive talk in favor of Riley’s plan August 4 to an assembly of faculty and staff of the Demopolis City School System in the Demopolis High School Auditorium.

When wrestling with the choice to vote for the package (also known as Amendment One) on September 9, Beggs asked "are we willing to trust our state government?"

The state’s tax structure taxes the people at the lowest tax rate in the nation, she said. "But our poorest families pay the highest percent of taxes, while our wealthiest families pay the lowest percent of taxes."

Riley’s plan would phase in over five years the income tax threshold from $4,600 annually to $20,000. "Sixty-seven percent of Alabama citizens will pay the same or less tax" under Riley’s plan.

There is a shortfall in the Education Trust Fund and in the General Fund that reaches approximately $675 million. "We’re not the only state in the nation experiencing this deficits," Beggs said.

Riley has already cut $230 million from the state budget. "That’s all the fat there is," she said.

Beggs touted the plan’s elimination of "pass-through pork" spending by legislators. "You can rest assured there is a lot of money being spent in every state in the nation that you and I as taxpayers don’t know about."

She promoted the many benefits for education through Riley’s plan including full tuition college scholarships guaranteed to students who make a 3.0 grade average, earned 18-and-a half credits and made 20 on the ACT.

Textbooks will be provided in all the required subjects, and programs such as the Alabama Reading Initiative and the Math Science and Technology Initiative will be funded adequately.

There are also incentives for teachers who will work in underserved areas of the state and for teachers who choose subjects such as math and science where there are teacher shortages.

Between 60 and 75 percent of the revenue resulting from Riley’s plan is legislated to go toward education, Beggs said.