New taxes requires trust

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 18, 2004

A compromise worked out Monday should send Gov. Bob Riley a general fund budget that he can sign.

Throughout the legislative session, Riley has been at odds with the Legislature over accountability, government reforms and “revenue enhancements” – what elected officials like to call new taxes without calling them taxes.

The $1.4 billion general fund budget will spend $196 million more than this year’s budget allowed, thanks largely to two revenue enhancements: a cigarette tax and increased court filing fees.

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Legislators have said this year’s general fund budget wouldn’t be able to stand without new revenue measures, and the compromise is proof of that.

Unfortunately for smokers, $88 million in new money will come from their pockets. The budget raises the state tax on cigarettes from 16.5 cents per pack to 42.5 cents per pack.

Higher court filing fees will generate another $22.4 million.

Cities and counties have been barred from increasing local cigarette taxes, so Demopolis’ tax hike earlier this year was well-timed.

It’s unfortunate, too, that Alabama has to resort to raising taxes. The governor, perhaps a little over-zealous in his post-Amendment One administration, has swallowed a bitter bill by accepting any tax increase. The trade-off

is that

state Medicaid funds are left to take care of our senior citizens.

Now it’s up to the Legislature to make sure those funds are spent wisely. If the state is to further burden only a few with additional taxes, then the state owes it to all of us to make efficient and effective use of those funds.