Senate committee makes important vote

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 21, 2002

The Senate Education Committee took an important step on Wednesday when members unanimously approved a proposal to give local schools boards more authority to raise taxes.

The proposal, advocated by Gov. Don Siegelman, would eliminate a requirement in Alabama’s constitution for the Legislature to approve local elections on raising taxes for public schools.

Currently, local school boards who want to raise revenues through property tax increases must:

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· Voice support for the tax hike.

· Get the support of either the city or county government, which must ask local legislators to get the election approved by the Legislature.

· Get legislative approval to have an election on raising taxes in the city or county.

· Receive a majority vote in support of the tax increases.

It’s an intentionally cumbersome and difficult process and, as Siegelman has said often, it keeps the power and control in the Legislature.

But we believe that the system Alabama uses to fund education is lacking, and we believe it needs serious reform. Giving local taxpayes the ability to raise taxes to support education is an important first step.

And it’s a step we believe won’t happen during this session. Alfa Insurance and the Alabama Farmers Federation – two powerful lobbies – already have spoken out in opposition to the measure. And, quite frankly, it’s not likely that the support for the measure will be found in the Senate or in the House.

With only seven days left in the legislative session, it’s also not likely the proposal will make it through the process.

But, still, it was an important vote, if only to show some support of the issue.  

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