Letter: Editorial was just plain wrong-headed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 11, 2002

The recent editorial in which you pitted K-12 versus higher education was just plain wrong-headed.

The problem in education funding in Alabama will not be settled by stealing from the poor to give to the poor! The short-term problem – this year’s budget shortfall and the resulting proration need to be addressed fairly. The best solution barring any temporary tax or tax surcharge is to share the pain evenly by prorating both K-12 and higher education across the board at 6.2%.

The bigger issue is solving the instability and the insufficiency of education funding for the long haul. There are a number of ways to do this and at the same time correct Alabama’s regressive and unfair taxation system.

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A number of workable solutions to the problem have emerged in the legislature. No singular, simplistic solution that would solve the problem is available. The solution requires an overhaul of the state’s tax system and some changes in how budgeting is done.

Some of what needs to be done includes:

eliminating the sales tax on food and non-prescription medicines

eliminating non-education funding in the education trust fund allocation

eliminating some sales tax exemptions requiring local jurisdictions to impose a minimum tax rate in order for them to obtain full state funding or to maintain local control of schools

changing personal income tax rates – decreasing rates for lower income families and increasing rates for higher income families to offset decreased rates and perhaps enough to increase revenues slightly

increasing corporate income tax rates from 6.5 to 7.0 percent

increasing property or ad valorem taxes to at least the regional average or at least enough to fund both K-12 and higher education at the regional averages

We are currently short-changing our children. My experience is that in general students from Alabama high schools are somewhat less-well prepared when they enter college as freshman or when they enter as graduate students than their contemporaries for other states in and outside of the region. And having attended college and universities inside and outside the state I am certain that in general resources for laboratories and technology are generally better in most other states in the region than they are here.

We have to choose whether our children and their future well-being is important enough for us to decide to pay slightly higher taxes or whether we want to continue to be proud to be poorer and less well-educated than we might be. In this world of global competition and economies with high paying jobs increasing in the technology areas do we want to compete or do we want to be an agrarian backwater?

When I was in high school in a small Arkansas town my parents paid more property tax on a house that probably would have appraised at about $40,000 or less than I pay on a house that appraises at about $130,000. I could pay almost twice what I pay today and still pay only about what my parents did over 30 years ago.

It is past time for us to reform the tax structure in Alabama! Thus far the large private and industrial land owners have duped the poor into helping them to retain the regressive tax structure. Race has also played and still plays a role as those with property are told that if property taxes are raised that they will be unfairly taxed as those who own no property will not be taxed. That is false as increased taxes will ultimately increase rents too!

Basically it is time to quit making excuses and do what is right. Your editorial was as excuse to ignore the problem. We need to work together in Alabama to bake a bigger pie not fight over one that is inadequate for all.

Mike Mullen


March 13, 2001 10 PM


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