State Journal: Former foes; Hoosier (tax) hike

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Seeking to fulfill his recent promise to make Alabama schools "the best in the world," Gov. Guy Hunt is turning for help to the man he beat in a close, hard-fought electoral campaign last fall.

Governor Hunt, who is developing an education-reform package to present to the legislature in April, met this month with a number of education leaders in the state, including Paul R. Hubbert, the veteran head of the Alabama Education Association.

Mr. Hubbert was the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in November, winning 48 percent of the vote against Mr. Hunt.

After their meeting, the two former foes both stressed the need to find a "consensus" on an education package.

Working out an advance agreement could be particularly important for Governor Hunt, a Republican who must push his plan through a solidly Democratic legislature.

The last time Mr. Hunt had a major education proposal, in 1988, it went nowhere in the face of strong opposition from the aea and other education groups.

Still, reaching an accord will not be easy, particularly in the midst of a 3.7 percent cut in this year's education spending ordered by Mr. Hunt to trim a budget shortfall.

Issues left over from the campaign may also still rankle, notably a bitter dispute that broke out in the final weeks over Mr. Hunt's charges that Mr. Hubbert's union had killed teacher testing in the state.

The Indiana State Teachers Association is generally viewed as one of the most powerful lobbying forces in the Indiana legislature.

Even so, the union's recent call for a $1.6-billion tax hike apparently has sent most lawmakers scurrying in the opposite direction.

Arguing that new revenues were needed to counter the state's projected $854-million budget deficit over the next two years, union leaders proposed that the state raise personal-income and business taxes, tax certain consumer services, and allow property levies to rise at a faster-than-normal rate.

Ista officials contend that voters will be willing to support the increases once they become aware of the deep cuts in education and other services that would be required without new revenues.

In response, however, Gov. Evan Bayh renewed his 1988 campaign pledge not to back higher taxes.

"I was very clear with the [House Democratic] caucus that there would not be a tax increase as long as I have something to do with it," Governor Bayh told reporters.--hd

Vol. 10, Issue 23

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