Tell it to Alabama: More signs of tax inequity
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Nov 06, 2009 | 2105 views |  3 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Republican leaders in Alabama want people to focus on the tangible effects of the state's low-tax mentality. Low taxes mean more incoming industries, jobs and prosperity.

Tell that to a poverty-stricken family whose state income taxes are high because they happen to live in Alabama, which taxes low-income families at a higher rate than any other state.

Rarely are there many legislators on Goat Hill who will advocate for a revamping of the state's antiquated tax code. Alabamians loathe the idea of raising taxes, those legislators say; everything's fine the way it is.

Tell that to hard-working educators who long ago tired of hearing about Alabama's historically inadequate public-education system. "It's hard to be No. 1 in education if you're No. 50 in spending capacity," state Education Superintendent Joe Morton told The Birmingham News.

The governor's office loves to tout the state's advances in education initiatives, in international industry recruitment, in growth areas around Huntsville and Mobile. Despite the recession and Alabama's high unemployment rate, Montgomery is quick to shine light on the state's successes.

Tell that to anti-poverty advocates who believe their efforts to publicize the plight of low-income Alabamians is not getting through — and may never.

This week, the national economy has continued its slow-yet-shaky climb out of the abyss. We guardedly cheer such improvement. But here in Alabama, residents have received more confirmation that the state's unequal tax structure and reliance on regressive taxes for education funding are foolhardy, reckless paths to take.

On Monday, a U.S. Census report gave anti-tax members of both parties more red meat to pass around. Residents and companies in Alabama, Census data show, pay less in state and local taxes than their counterparts in any state.

It's confirmed; Alabama is king of low-tax America.

On Wednesday, a national study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities drove a stake through Alabama's heart. The lives of low-income, working Alabamians are made all the more difficult by the state they call home, the study said. Alabama taxes its working poor more than any other state.

In fact, Alabama has little competition for the nation's dubious top ranking. Here's but one example: A single-parent family of three whose income is at the federal poverty level of $17,165 pays $333 in annual state income tax. No other state comes close; the second-place state, Hawaii, charges the same family $214 a year in income taxes.

Yes, it's as bad as it sounds. "At the lowest incomes, we have some of the highest taxes in the nation because our system is upside down," Chris Sanders, policy analyst for the Arise Citizens' Policy Project, told the Associated Press.

Legislators and lobbyists can cheer the state's low-tax mentality and the use of regressive taxes for vital state departments all they want. They prefer Alabamians focus on bright, shiny objects and not on anything harsh or needing improvement.

But if Alabama ever needed another reminder that tax reform resides at the top of the state's to-do list, it arrived this week. It can't be overlooked.
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