Didn’t say we didn’t warn you
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Apr 06, 2012 | 2268 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A little more than a month ago, Gov. Robert Bentley’s administration, faced with a General Fund budget crisis, was seeking ways to bring in additional revenue by increasing fees Alabamians pay for state services.

This, we were told, could be done and still keep the “no-tax pledge” that had become holy writ to the governor and virtually all of the state Legislature’s Republicans.

At the time, this page’s point was that the governor and his supporters should fess up to the fact that trying to convince Alabamians that fees are not a form of taxation is a losing proposition. Residents often have the choice of not paying a fee should they be able to do without a state service; with taxes, there is no choice. Yet, many of the services for which fees are charged are important — if not essential — to the one who needs them. In those cases, people have to come up with the money, whether they want to or not.

Just like taxes.

The Bentley administration has taken another step toward the fees-to-raise revenue solution to the General Fund problem. State financial director Marquise Davis sent out an email asking agency heads to look for fee-increase suggestions as well as other “inventive and innovative” suggestions that might bring in more money.

Davis plans to take ideas she gets, compile a list of the best responses and share them with the governor and the chairmen of the Legislature’s General Fund budget committees. What happens then is anyone’s guess.

We’ve said this before: This effort only covers up the larger problem. It is one more example of the people elected to lead Alabama refusing to do what needs to be done. In terms of leadership, Alabamians deserve better than what they are getting.

Cuts already ordered in the General Fund budget are taking effect, and even with substantial fee increases, what will be bad this year could be worse next year.

But will lawmakers step up and reform the Alabama tax system so that the state has a fairer, more dependable way to raise the revenue sufficient to run a modern state?

It’s unlikely.

The reason’s obvious. Such reform will require that the top income earners, the ones who have long benefited from the current system, would pay more than they have in the past.

Instead of tax reform, Alabama gets higher fees for state services that are just as regressive as sales taxes. Two current examples: In Calhoun County, marriage licenses cost $44. (A bill in the state Legislature could almost double that fee.) In Alabama, drivers are charged a $5 testing fee and $23.50 for their license. Those fees could increase under this plan.

As a consequence, people in middle- and lower-income groups are hit the hardest.

That is fiscal responsibility, Alabama style.
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Didn’t say we didn’t warn you by The Anniston Star Editorial Board

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