Representatives: Tax package a ‘watershed’ moment for state

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 16, 2003

It’s been one week since the Legislature passed Gov. Bob Riley’s landmark tax and reform package. Now it’s up to the voters.

Within the next 90 days Alabama residents will be asked to cast an all-or-nothing vote on what some are calling the most far-reaching legislation to come out of Montgomery in years.

The governor’s package will bring an estimated $1.2 billion in new revenue to state coffers. It will affect taxpayers from the lowest end of the economic spectrum to the highest.

Email newsletter signup

It means those at the bottom of the economic ladder will pay less in state income tax and those on the higher rungs will pay more.

It means that if you own a house in the $50,000 range, you’ll pay less property tax. If you own a house costing $100,000 or more, you can plan on paying more.

And while everyone agrees that the package will make sweeping changes in the way the state does business, almost no one &045;&045; including the legislators who voted to approve it – can say with any certainty exactly what all those changes will be. That’s because the entire package consists of more than 20 separate bills &045;&045; each of which comprises as many as 200 to 300 pages.

It would, he added, be virtually impossible for every legislator to be familiar with every aspect of every bill that comes up for a vote.

The impetus behind the governor’s package is simple: the state is facing a $500 million to $600 million shortage of money to operate.

Already a number of state agencies have declared they will have to make sharp curtailments in services unless budgetary relief is forthcoming soon.

School boards across the state &045;&045; including the Selma City and Dallas County school systems &045;&045; have begun laying off teachers and other personnel in anticipation of even tighter budgets for the coming school year.

Rather than try to address those shortages on a piecemeal basis as has been done in year’s past, the governor’s package is an attempt to implement a more permanent solution by increasing revenues in order to maintain services at their present level.

Argued Sanders, &uot;We have to do something more than fix holes in the roof.&uot;

He dismissed those critics who contend the only change needed is to eliminate waste in state government.

He singled out state income taxes and property taxes as two areas in which taxpayers will notice the biggest difference under the governor’s package. The package would lower sate income taxes on those at the lower end of the economic scale and increase state income taxes on those making more.

Currently in Alabama, state income taxes affect even those making as little as $90 a week. &uot;Nowhere else in this country is that true,&uot; Sanders says. &uot;That will impact a whole lot of folks in may district.&uot;

He also pointed out that property taxes on less expensive homes will decrease, while taxes on homes costing $100,000 and more will increase.

Salaam said that while there are several aspects of the governor’s package he disagrees with, he does favor taking a comprehensive approach to the looming budgetary crisis rather than attempting a &uot;statutory tax Band-Aid fix.&uot;

Salaam declined to say whether he would actively campaign for passage of the package, stating only, &uot;At this point it’s not my responsibility to campaign for or against anything other than the welfare of my constituents.&uot;

Sanders was more robust in his support.