New Jersey, famous as the home of Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen and the cast of MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” is also the place where taxpayers get the least in return for their contributions to the federal till.
According to the Tax Foundation’s analysis of 2005 data, New Jersey residents receive 61 cents for every $1 paid in taxes. Near the other end of the spectrum, sits Alabama, whose residents see a return of $1.66 for every $1 dollar paid in federal taxes. (As a Tim Lockette article in Monday’s Star pointed out, New Mexico was the leader, receiving more than $2 for every $1 paid.)
While the Tax Foundation’s numbers are dated and a reliable formula for accounting for corporate taxes is tricky, the basic equation is rock solid. Membership in that club known as the United States has serious benefits for Alabama, not the least of which is a handsome return on the amount of taxes paid by Alabamians.
New Jersey and other states getting less than a dollar-for-a-dollar swap of tax money are therefore paying for fiscal conservatism of Alabama and other states.
As a state that prides itself on good manners, the least Alabama could do is thank prosperous states for footing the bill.
This is no call for Alabama to fully live down to its miserly fiscal conservatism. Instead, it’s time for a reckoning.
A well-functioning state government requires money. The duty of protecting and improving the lives of a state’s residents can be done with greater efficiency, but not with less money than Alabama spends. Somebody has to foot the bill. In Alabama, we require less of our residents and rely more on wealthy residents of New Jersey, California and others with a substantial tax base.
Well, we did.
The great recession, the inevitable drying up of tax revenue and the growing national debt is making it hard on states like Alabama. Under the banner of the “tea party,” a conservative movement is hoping to turn more of the United States toward Alabama’s version of budgeting on the cheap: low and unfairly applied taxes and skimpy spending.
As the fiscal pain trickles down, Alabama, which has been throwing an extended tea party for decades, is hurting.
The dollars the state had relied on others to provide are shriveling up. State officials are swinging the budget ax with reckless disregard. The cuts are hitting not luxuries and frills, but the basics, the very reasons for a state to exist.
One of the most short-sighted cuts would be if the state carries through with its plan to close the crime lab in Anniston. Sources told The Star the facility doesn’t pay rent or utilities; its expenses amount to $100 a month.
Ask Montgomery’s policymakers the obvious question of raising more revenue and the response is a metaphorical pat. The people of Alabama are tired of taxes, comes the reply.
Don’t bother pointing out Alabama is one of the least taxed states in the land. Inconvenient facts like these only get in the way. As they say in Jersey, “Fuggedaboutit.”