State cash flow problems an embarrassment

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 8, 2002

Talk about a PR problem.

Alabama Department of Revenue officials admitted this week that they’re holding thousands of processed tax returns because the department lacks the

cash to pay refunds owed to individuals and corporations.

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Officials try to dismiss the delay, saying that cash flow is always tight at

this time of year. And, apparently the same problem occurred last year,

although some officials say it’s worse in 2002.

Still, we find this an embarrassing situation and an ill-timed debacle. At a time when political and state leaders are calling for constitutional

reform, and asking the voting public to place faith in their vision and the changes these leaders advocate, the inability of the state to pay these tax

refunds won’t bode well.

Given these unflattering facts, it may prove difficult for the "Bubbas and

Shorties and Willie Maes" that our leaders

so often reference to support any efforts to reform tax structures without a sense of confidence that the state

is playing fair in this game. Even reasonable taxpayers, with an

understanding of the concepts of "cash flow woes," will doubt the

government’s effectiveness and ability to perform its basic functions.

It’s our natural inclination to resist tax reform, perhaps in part because of

our fear of the unknown.

But now, knowing that the state’s revenue department is literally unable to

manage its cash well enough to give taxpayers back the money they’re due …

well, it sure makes tax reform a difficult issue to sell these days.  

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