What will reps face?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 25, 2001

Staff Writer

Local legislators will be returning to Montgomery on Dec. 4, but the lawmakers are not sure what awaits them.

Gov. Don Siegelman has called the fourth special session for this year to focus on making changes in corporate income taxes in an effort to prevent more cuts to education.

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In February, Siegelman called proration to the Education Trust Fund, cutting funding for the 2000-2001 academic year by 6.2 percent because tax collections were not as high as expected. Those cuts to state-funded schools came to about $266 million.

Now, officials are anticipating tax collections for this year will be $30 million short. Predictions are the cuts will fall to $150 million from the expected $180 million that was supposed to fund the $4 billion education budget.

Siegelman has said he wants to "close loopholes" in the state’s corporate tax rate, which allow some companies to avoid paying taxes.

The governor wants to raise the business privilege tax on the new worth of large companies in the upcoming special session.

"It’s my understanding the governor wants to raise $150 to 160 million to defray costs of education for the next fiscal year," said State Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne. "If that is the premise for this special session, I would hope the governor would have a plan that would respond to that in a fair way."

Neither Mitchell nor Boothe have seen a written plan.

"I’ve not seen any of the bills or reasons for closing those ‘loopholes,’" said State. Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy. "Fairness should be the answer.

"I don’t think we need to tax anyone unfairly. What we need to do is take a good look it and that’s what I intend to do."

If the governor believes there are loopholes in the tax laws, Mitchell said they obviously were not caught the last time legislation was introduced.

"If history tells us one thing, we need to look at the content of this bill," Mitchell said. "Based on that lesson, we should read this legislation carefully."

Boothe said he’s heard the state is loosing money and "if that’s the case," it should be corrected.

He also realizes this is a time of uncertainty.

"We’re at war," Boothe said of the economic swings being experienced.