Gov. Riley promotes sales tax holiday during visit to Phenix City

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley was in Phenix City on Tuesday touting the state’s sales tax holiday, which is this weekend.

Riley justified the holiday in the face of a recession that’s left many local governments scrambling to close a budget gap created by weak consumer spending.

“This is not the government’s money, it’s the people of Alabama’s money,” Riley said from behind a lectern inside the Phenix City Walmart as workers and onlookers snapped pictures of him.

He said at this time of year parents face critical decisions about what they can afford to spend money on as students head back to school. Riley said the state has less money because people have less money, and the holiday is important.

“Government needs to step up,” he said.

During the tax-free holiday, which runs Friday through Sunday, people can purchase clothing, books, schools supplies and computers without paying sales tax. It’s the fifth year the state has held the tax-free weekend.

In between the rattling of shopping carts and the beeping of check-out aisles, Riley said people shop more than expected during the holiday. Last year Alabama shoppers saved $6 million.

Nancy King Dennis, Alabama Retail Association public relations director, said she encourages people from outside the state to cross the river to shop in Alabama, particularly since a similar program is not being held in Georgia this year. In Georgia, the Legislature opted not to approve the tax holiday because of the state’s $2 billion deficit.

“Georgia’s loss is Alabama’s gain,” she said. “We welcome shoppers from neighboring states.”

Dennis said the holiday’s primary purpose is to offer some relief to parents spending a lot of money on school supplies, but everyone can take advantage in Alabama.

“Alabama retailers are ready to go,” she said. “Let’s go shop.”