Sunday, August 17, 2003

We're #49!-There's an old joke that Alabama thanks the Lord for Mississippi, for they'd be dead last in more stats without them. Their state spending levels are among the lowest in the nation. That would lead many to suggest that taxes and spending are too low and need to be raised. However, that same logic gets applied on a national level when (usually) liberals point out that the US has smaller government spending than Europe does, and in that case, I'd make and argument that it's not that we tax too little, but that Europe taxes too much. It's an awkward argument when you're an outlier and to say that "I'm OK, y'all suck." The issue at hand this years is a plan to raise property taxes and upper-bracket income taxes and raise the standard exemption on the state income tax. This is being proposed by their Republican governor, Bob Riley. Here's one of many Chip Taylor pieces on the ballot proposal. Go and read many other good piece from Taylor, who seems to be a native Alabamian with a Econ Master's degree.[Correction-"I'm not a native Alabaman, but rather a native Georgian who spent most of my life in Missouri and is now transplanted to South Carolina. And I've got a masters in public administration, not econ." It sure look liked you knew econ and you knew Alabama, sir] The interesting thing about the press coverage is that the mainline media has a Republican they can love; I heard a NPR interview with Riley the other day that is the biggest puff piece I can recall them giving to a Republican that wasn't an abortion-supporter. Raising property taxes, especially on timberlands (the timber industry has gotten a good deal over the years), and upper-bracket income taxes while raising the standard deduction to take a lot of the working poor's wages off the tax rolls, seems to be more a Democratic idea. Gov. Riley is sounding a bit like this Susan Hamill piece I ran across in February that used liberal Christian rhetoric to plug for more spending and more progressivity in the tax code. The net result of the tax increase will be to spend more money on schools, especially rural schools that have been relatively underfunded. The question on the table is whether Alabama's spending too little on its schools and other state programs and whether more progressivity in the tax code is called for. That, I'm not sure of. I know when I was a low-wage earner, the low exemptions in Michigan had me paying state income tax in years where I paid no federal income tax, so the raising of the exemptions seems proper. However, I'm not sure if the property tax increases and income tax increases will do more damage to the Alabama economy then the extra school spending will help. More on that after I get back from church.

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