We need tax relief, not tax burden

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 15, 2001

The primary elections in Alabama are nine months away but the election year issues are already being formed.

This past week several gubernatorial candidates appeared on the same convention schedule in Birmingham and outlined for their audiences what I feel will be three of the major issues discussed from now until Election Day.

The first issue is tax reform.

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This particular audience was farmers and agri-business leaders, both of which groups fear changes in two key parts of the tax system.

First is the &uot;current use&uot; provision of the state's property tax system, which keeps taxes low on agricultural land.

Second are the sales tax exemptions on agricultural items such as fertilizers, fuel and feed.

It is no secret that Alabama farmers are operating on slim margins and tax increases would likely drive many more out of business.

These two tax breaks, if that is what we would call them, seem to be in order for those who are helping to feed Alabamians and insure that the family farm stays in existence.

We do need some comprehensive, fair tax reform in Alabama, and that is something I will be supporting when this issue is properly presented to the Legislature.

Many states do not have a sales tax on prescription drugs or food, and I think this is something we could look at as we examine reform measures.

I want to make sure that whatever effort we undertake results in tax equity and fairness, not a tax increase.

In other words, we need tax reform - not a tax burden.

A second issue which seems to be crystallizing is the call for constitutional reform.

Like most major issues, this is not an easy problem to solve.

At first I thought we could just &uot;update&uot; the Constitution, provide some appropriate home rule for Alabama's sixty-seven counties, and make some moderate changes to insure that every voter in the state does not have to decide minor issues from the Tennessee Valley to the Gulf Coast.

But upon closer examination, I learned that there are groups in Alabama who are using &uot;constitutional reform&uot; as a guise to raise taxes, to change a lot of the basic principles which most of us believe in, and to make it easier to have gambling in our state.

Having learned this, it alerts me to the fact that this issue needs some in-depth study and preparation before it is finally decided.

It is not a burning issue with a lot of constituents, therefore, I feel a keen responsibility to make sure that the average citizen in our state is not adversely impacted by whatever constitutional reform is adopted by the Legislature.

A third issue will be public education in Alabama.

When a poll is taken, this topic is usually ranked number one in importance by Alabama voters.

I think most citizens recognize the importance of a quality education to insure a better quality of life for our young people, more job opportunities, and greater attraction for industrial growth in our communities.

The problem comes when we seek meaningful solutions that address these concerns.

I saw in the media this past week where the new director of the Commission on Higher Education is calling for a complete revision of our approach to educating our young people and adults.

He wants to set up a system that is known as K-16, that would replace our commonly referenced K-12.

I am interested in hearing more of the details of his proposal.

Until next week, just remember that &uot;I'll go with you or I'll go for you&uot; to help you solve any problem related to state government.

My Capitol telephone number is 334-242-7883, or you can write me at P O Box 225, Luverne, Alabama 36049.

Sen. Wendell Mitchell is representative of Butler County.