Skip to main content
CNN EditionInside Politics
The Web     
Powered by
powered by Yahoo!
Inside Politics

Voters crush Alabama tax hike proposal

By Bill Schneider

Joy Ann Perry reacts as she watches early vote returns on the proposed Alabama $1.2 billion tax amendment, while attending a rally Tuesday in Birmingham, Alabama.

Story Tools

(CNN) -- The Soviet Union used to have purges whenever a communist official strayed from the party line. This is the United States though and purges here can be just as brutal.

But they're more democratic. Like the GOP purge -- make that, the GOP Play of the Week -- in Alabama this week.

How do you convince Alabama voters to approve a $1.2 billion tax hike? Maybe if there's a severe state fiscal crisis, and a conservative Republican governor like Bob Riley is leading the campaign.

The perfect storm.

"What's more important, prescription drugs or nursing home care? Because we're going to have to make some brutal decisions next week if this does not pass," said Riley.

It looked like Riley had support -- from teachers, business interests and legislative leaders. And, one would suppose, the loyalty of his party.

That's where Riley miscalculated.

Gov. Bob Riley, right, at the Alabama Capitol in Montgomery, with State Finance Director Drayton Nabers.

"George Bush Sr. played this role in 1990. He raised taxes and was rejected by the party, the base and the electorate," said Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform.

An anti-tax coalition comprised of angry property owners and preachers sprang into action. Remember the furor a few weeks ago over removing the Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Supreme Court?

"I received a phone call over the weekend from the head of the Christian Coalition of Alabama saying that the very same people who took the monument out of the judicial building are now trying to raise your taxes," said political columnist Bob Ingram who has covered politics for 50 years.

And instead of supporting their governor, angry Republicans came out against him.

On Tuesday, Alabama voters rejected the tax plan by better than two to one. The perfect storm turned out to be the perfect shipwreck.

Conservatives intend to turn Riley's experience into an object lesson.

"We will be regaling little baby Republican governors in the future with scary ghost stories about what happens to Republican governors who decide to loot the people rather than to govern," said Norquist.

From anti-tax conservatives, the message to Republicans is clear: Threaten to raise taxes, and you could become the political PREY of the Week.

Riley has three years left to mend fences with Alabama voters.

One of the first things he did? Unveil a plaque depicting the Ten Commandments in the state capitol.

Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Panel: Spy agencies in dark about threats
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Security alert issued for 40 million credit cards

International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.