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Governor says no more education cuts

Gov. Don Siegelman opened a special session of the Alabama Legislature last evening with a call for &uot;no more cuts in public education.&uot;

That is a laudable goal but it is easier said than done. Every member of the Legislature, your senator included, wants to fully fund public education. In addition to the importance of having a more educated and job ready population of citizens, education is a principal factor in the deterrence to crime and assuming leadership roles in the community.

The governor proposes to raise $160 million from Alabama taxpayers through the legislation which has been introduced by his Floor Leaders in the House and Senate.

These measures are as follows: (1) a bill to eliminate consolidated tax return filing and return to mandatory separate returns for corporations; (2) a bill to expand the auditing powers of the Department of Revenue; (3) a bill to require non-resident owners of limited liability companies and partnerships to file Alabama tax returns or, alternatively, have the limited liability company or partnership pay Alabama taxes of its resident owners; (4) a bill to amend the definition of business income to allow Alabama to tax a corporation's income to the full extent permitted under the United States Constitution; (5) a bill to restrict the use of net operating loss deductions for corporations; (6) a bill to retain Alabama's present method of calculating the amount of federal income tax deductible for Alabama tax purposes; (7) a bill to require increased estimated payments of taxes by conforming Alabama's estimated tax payment systems to the federal tax requirements; (8) a bill to impose a business corporation privilege tax with a maximum cap of $2 million and create new higher tax brackets starting with business entities having at least $2.5 million of taxable income; and (9) a bill to penalize companies and tax professionals who fail to comply with tax return and payment requirements.

As I stated in a previous column, if there are large corporations making significant profits in Alabama but paying no Alabama tax, then I am for plugging these loopholes. I think the first order of business is for public hearings to be held by the Legislature to determine the extent of this &uot;loophole problem&uot;.

I know there is a contention by the large business community that there have been misrepresentations with respect to their tax liabilities and this needs to be carefully reviewed so the Legislature can act on these important bills with accurate facts before them.

There are also other funding measures that should be examined. For instance, we have millions of dollars being unused in the oil and gas tax trust fund. Perhaps some of this money could be diverted for use in the more important area of education. There is also presently no tax on gambling in Alabama. If the casinos and bingo halls, such as recently opened in Wetumpka, are going to become a reality, then certainly there should be some tax paid on their profitable operations. This also could be earmarked for education.

It is going to be a difficult session because business interests and education interests are verbally attacking each other in public. This is not good. We should all be working together to fairly solve this problem.

This session conceivably could last until the regular session begins in January. That probably will not be the case because of the Christmas holiday season, but unless a compromise is reached, there could be some protracted debate on any one of the above bills.

This is also an election year and politics seems to be driving much of the agenda. Personally, I think that is shameful, but I guess it is hard to &uot;take politics out of politics&uot;.

I will be at the State House in Montgomery the next couple of weeks and if I can be of assistance, remember that &uot;I'll go with your or I'll go for you&uot; to help you solve any problem related to state government. You can reach me at 334-242-7883, or write me at 11 South Union Street, Room 735, Alabama State House, Montgomery, AL 36130.