By Nicholas Andrews
Alabama Political Reporter
With a passing vote in both the House and Senate, and signed into law by Gov. Bentley, the General Fund Budget is a done deal; but far from being resolved, according to Democrats.
As Republicans prepare to put this budget fiasco behind them, the leadership in the Democrat party prosecuted the GOP’s inability to take care of the long term fiscal instability of the General Fund. The Republican solution includes a trifecta of raising taxes, cutting State services, and budget reform, by imposing on the Education Trust Fund.
Democrats proposal for solvency for the General Fund includes the expansion of Medicaid, implementation of combined reporting, and amending the constitution to allow property taxes to be raised. All these measures were dead on arrival and we’re not allowed out of committee.
Aside from the blatant polarization in the legislature, Democrats went on record to make their case for their fiscal reforms. As a strong proponent of Medicaid expansion, Sen. Billy Beasley (D-Clayton) encouraged General Budget committee chairman Arthur Orr to put the Medicaid Expansion bill on the agenda. Many believe that expansion of Medicaid would act as a stimulus package for the State, by injecting approximately 1.5 billion dollars annually into the State’s economy, and greatly enhance healthcare access to an additional 300,000 Alabamians.
Sen. Linda Coleman (D-Birmingham) went toe to toe with big business with her introduction of the combined reporting bill, that would require corporations to list all their assets on one single reporting form. She stated her reasoning for introducing this bill is to prevent corporate entities from shifting and moving revenue around to circumvent paying their fair share of taxes. Her efforts were met by an onslaught of corporate lobbyists. Coleman commented, “It seems that the Alabama Legislature has sold out to big business.”
The Democrats decided to bring out the big guns and tackle raising property taxes. Sen. Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) sponsored SB10, which would amend the constitution to raise property taxes by 5 mills, the equivalent of $15 for every $50,000 in property owned, and this would create an additional $250 million of revenues annually for the General Fund. Figures defended her position by saying,”The legislature was not imposing this tax on people. It was a constitutional amendment that the people would have been allowed to vote on, to impose it on themselves; and they could have written it off on their Federal taxes.”
Sen. Figures found this to be a better alternative than imposing on the Education Trust Fund, and that her constituents have asked why raising property taxes was not on the table, considering how low Alabama property taxes are.
The Dems have presented their indictment of the Republican enacted budget, and countered with their solutions. They stand in solidarity that the fight is not over, and that they are on the side of doing what’s best for the citizens of Alabama. Will the gloves come off in Round 2? Watch this space.