BAMA TAX REFORM II
Steven Taylor has more on the issue, quoting a Montgomery Advertiser editorial which, in turn, quotes a Norfolk Virginian-Pilot editorial arguing the virtues of high taxes and warning anti-tax Virginians of becoming “like Alabama.”
“Alabama currently spends less per child on education than any state in the nation. It has 28,000 prisoners squeezed into prisons designed for 12,000…. Some nights thousands of miles of roadway are monitored by a half-dozen (state police) officers. It has a tax structure that … imposes an effective tax rate of 3 percent on Alabama’s wealthiest citizens and 12 percent on its poorest residents. A family of four subsisting on $4,600 a year has to pay income taxes, but out-of-state timber companies get by paying only $1.25 an acre in property taxes.”
The editorial goes on to lament that, despite the state’s problems, these national anti-tax groups are opposing the tax increase here anyway.
“For them, the Alabama experience suggests, there is no bottom line, no point at which shoddy schools or overcrowded prisons or unsafe highways outweigh the desire to keep taxes low. Fiftieth in spending among the 50 states isn’t low enough.”
While I agree with the substance of the argument, the specifics are a bit dubious.
- SOMEBODY has to be #50 in spending. And, of course, one would expect Alabama to be among the lowest spending states since it’s one of the poorest. Plus, a large percentage of education spending is devoted to salaries and, given a lower cost of living, lower salaries naturally follow.
- They’d love to charge out-of-state timber companies more but can’t without an identical increase on in-state companies. That pesky Constitution and all.
- Alabama’s highways are terrifically well maintained. Indeed, they’re a lot better than those in, say, Virginia. (Partly, this is a function of weather and population density). Nor is there any evidence provided that they comparatively unsafe. It’s not surprising that a state with 4.3 million residents over a fairly large geographic area would have few state troopers patrolling the roads when people are asleep.
Riley’s tax restructuring plan sounds like a good idea–although I haven’t studied the issue all that closely since it no longer impacts me directly–and I’d probably vote for it if I still lived there. I agree with the editorial’s position that being reflexively anti-tax is a bad thing. But citizens can only be taxed so much. Citizens in very poor states aren’t going to be able to contribute the same dollar amount as those in wealthier states.