By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Monday, September 14, the Senate will consider controversial proposals by the Alabama House of Representatives to raise taxes on nursing home beds, prescription drugs, cigarettes, car titles, car rentals/leases, etc. The House is still considering controversial proposals to raise taxes on fuel, businesses, porn, and businesses that are engaged in nude/topless dancing and massage, though all of these proposals were not in the budget that passed out of the House on Friday afternoon. Tea Party and conservative groups are opposed to new taxes, and are holding a rally to voice their opposition on Monday.
The event was organized by the Alabama Constitution Party, and supported by the Tennessee Valley Constitutionalist Society, Constitution Clothing Company, Tea Party TIME Network, and the Alabama Conservative Group.
The groups said in a joint statement: “As you may know, after many campaign promises of no new taxes, our Republican led House passed several new tax increases this week. On Monday, the budget will now be sent to the Senate for a vote. Please make plans to attend this rally on the Capitol Steps on Monday to remind OUR representatives who it is they work for and who they are accountable to! They are, unfortunately, under the impression that they are in office to represent the lobbyists and special interests.”
Speakers include former State Senators Scott Beason and John Rice, Paul Hicks from the Alabama Constitution Party, and others. The event begins at 10:00 am and last until 12:00 noon at the steps of the Capitol building (facing Dexter Avenue).
The anti-tax groups continued, “Join us as we hold our State Legislators (and Governor) accountable to their campaign pledges to not raise our taxes! Regardless of your political affiliation, we need folks to stand together against the tyranny. The taxes these elected officials are proposing will affect all of us directly or indirectly!”
State Senator Phil Williams said in a recent column, “We can build the best state in the nation. We can have a state in which quality of education and quality of life coexist without one having to beg from the other. And believe it or not, we can do so without raising taxes. Unbeknownst to many Alabamians, a very simple bill has been introduced twice this year and promptly shelved by the gatekeepers who refuse to allow any crossover between the budgets. The bill authored by my conservative colleague Senator Paul Sanford simply allows for a perpetual split of recurring revenues: 78 percent to the Education Trust Fund, and 22 percent to the General Fund. This would increase the General Funds revenue base by an estimated $156 million and maintain a strong reserve for education. It is the right thing to do. It is systemic change and does not require new taxes. It is the change that I am prepared to fight for.”
State Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) wrote on Facebook, “House PASSES $105 M in increased taxes! Where have all of the Republicans gone! I want to thank the few strong members in the House who were willing to fight the tough fight and unfortunately lost. They should be commended for their efforts. I hope to defeat all of them in the Senate. BTW We don’t have time to figure out where all the waste and abuse is, but we do have time to spend on getting money from corporations, lobbyists and donors for legislators legal defense funds and bills that retaliate against those with different options. I think the citizens of Alabama wanted and voted for something better than that.”
State Representative John Knight (D-Montgomery) who opposed the House GOP tax plan said in a statement, “Today was a long day in the House of Representatives, and unfortunately, it was not a good day for average working Alabamians and their families. Every single tax bill passed by the House was a regressive tax that unfairly targets consumers. Citizens will be asked to carry the burden of more than $100 million in new taxes, including tax increases on motor vehicle titles, car rentals and cigarettes.”
Sen. Bussman said, “I have advised leadership that I will filibuster any tax increase that comes to the Senate. I am not alone in this filibuster. A few of my colleagues are on board as well. Reform has been rejected by a few members so we will not allow them to take any more of your hard earned money via taxes.”
House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) said in a statement, “This is a bad budget because it’s based on a bad plan. The Republican Tax Plan raises over $100 million exclusively on the people of Alabama. The Republicans didn’t close any corporate tax loopholes or ask out-of-state businesses to pay their fair share. Instead, the Republican Tax Plan taxes hospital beds, prescription medications, car titles and car rentals, tobacco products and they’ve even proposed a tax on gasoline. These are taxes on the people; people trying to live paycheck to paycheck.”
Knight continued, “As of this post today, corporations and big business entities have only been asked to contribute roughly $16 million, because the business privilege tax wasn’t even brought up for consideration. However, this bill would only add an additional $22 million from corporate tax revenue.” “Today, members of our Caucus took a stand against the effort to tax consumers without requiring corporations and businesses to pay their fair share. There are mega, multi-million dollar corporations that hide behind tax shelters, exemptions and corporate tax loopholes to avoid paying Alabama taxes, while we subject our citizens – many of whom are struggling and hurting – with an even greater tax burden. This is simply not right.”
Sen. Williams said, “The tax-raising bullies have been loud and boisterous lately. It is time for the citizens who have asked me over and over not to raise taxes to make themselves heard. It is time for the General Fund to be treated as an equal and not as a little beggar from a 19th century workhouse.”
Minority Leader Ford said on Facebook, “I respect everyone’s opinion, but I have heard from my constituents. They would rather vote on a lottery than have their taxes raised, and that is what I am going to keep fighting for!”
To this point the Republican leadership has blocked Republican Plans to go to a combined budget with a 78:22 split between Education and the General Fund; Democrat plans to expand Medicaid; and bipartisan efforts to pass a lottery.
Establishment Republicans, led by Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) and House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Steve Clouse, were able to cobble enough votes to get their budget with $105 million in tax increases through the House. ALFA opposed a controversial measure that would have raised $22 million by raising the business privilege tax; thus were able to peal off enough votes that that plank in the Bentley/Clouse plan was dropped from the package.
State Representative Mac MacCutcheon (R-Capshaw) is promoting higher taxes on fuel in order to spend more money on road projects. That money is all earmarked for the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and won’t be of any assistance to the troubled state general fund (SGF); but has the support of powerful special interests including the road builders, developers, and local governments who would get a share of the dollars.