Quin, I don’t dispute your knowledge of Alabama’s budget process and am sure that if you supported the Riley plan, it had merits. But here are my reasons for arguing that Riley’s plan was an at least partly faith-based deviation from standard Republican fiscal practice, which is really more my point than whether the plan was justified. After that, I’m going to agree to disagree.
The Riley plan was a net tax increase that funded tax relief for lower-income taxpayers, deficit reduction, and new spending in part through higher taxes on upper-income taxpayers. Even the elimination of tax deductions/loopholes is only permissible under the taxpayer protection pledge when matched dollar-for-dollar by offsetting tax cuts. In a poor state with a small government and bad tax code, conservatives could potentially make an exception to the rule — but it would certainly be unusual, if heterodox is too strong a word.
Second, not all of Riley’s religious arguments for the plan were made in response to the state Christian Coalition’s admittedly over-the-top rhetoric against it. He spoke favorably about Hamill’s law review article before the conflict with CC’s John Giles really heated up; Riley also wrote a letter to Alabama clergy citing the New Testament on behalf of his plan. Finally, while some conservatives supported the plan, most did not — it lost 2 to 1 statewide.