Gov. Tries Religion To Solve Deficit

memorial service at Fort Hood, Texas, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009. CBS

Alabama Governor Bob Riley is greeted with applause as he enters an event.

"Good to see you, doing fine," he tells the crowd.

Alabama voters thought they knew Gov. Riley as a disciple of Republican gospel, reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann. They had no idea a tax plan was in the works.

"What we've tried to do is build a plan where everyone pays a little more," Riley told them about his tax plan.

This tax plan includes a billion-dollar hike and a radical tax reform that's ticked off his old friends, and tickled his old foes — including many Democrats.

Strassmann asked Phyllis Wayne, a teacher if she ever thought she would be at a party for him.

"No I didn't," she replied laughing. "Absolutely not."

Gov. Riley told Strassmann that "it's a different type of coalition."

"It really is," Riley said.

That's the sizzle of Southern understatement.

In Alabama, talking about raising taxes is politically radioactive.

John Russell, an Alabama taxpayer said, "They keep throwing money at things and it just keeps coming out of our pocket."

Many Alabama republicans are stumped. Riley is the same guy who was once voted Alabama's most conservative congressman. He's about the last guy supporters thought would ever push for tax reform and income redistribution.

But once in office, Riley quickly realized what a mess the state was in. Its budget deficit is roughly $700 million. Its prisons are double capacity. Its schools rank among America's worst.

His plan is heresy to many conservatives. He wants the poor to pay less, and the rich to pay more, as a matter of Christian conscience.

"According to our Christian ethic, we're supposed to love God, love each other, and help take care of our poor," said Riley. "And this is a step in the right direction."

There's a number of Republicans in particular, who say they elected one guy and now have another one on their hands.

"This is not something I want to do," Riley said. "It's something I have to do."

Now there's a rebel yell of revolt from Riley's political base.

"For some of my membership, I am sure that if all of these new taxes would be put into place, that it would force some of them to close their businesses," said Rosemary Elebash of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

This September, Alabamians will vote again. It's a referendum on taxes and priorities, with a special focus on fairness.
  • Melissa Cheung

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