The Alabama Moderate

Painting the Red State Purple.

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More on the proposed sales tax increase

Posted by ALmod on November 17, 2007

Well, it’s nothing new, really.  If you remember the JeffCo sales tax increase, the plan is this:  Do it early.  Keep it vague.  That way you can rush it through without any real input from constituents.  They’ll be furious for a little while, but they’ll forget by the time election day comes around.  If there’s one thing politics has shown us in Alabama, it’s that you can pretty much ram anything you want down the throats of Alabama voters during the first year or so and get away with it.

Remember that pay increase that the Alabama legislature voted for themselves?  Nobody seems to be talking about it, these days.  Chances are that most people just don’t care about it anymore.
But there’s one thing about this whole plan of Langford’s that got foiled.  He couldn’t keep it secret.  And while LaLa’s blaming the city counselors (and should instead probably be considering the council staffers), the Birmingham News is requesting release of those documents.

Now the one thing that nobody has addressed is this:  Why would they want to keep something like this a secret?  It’s not exactly a security issue.  Constituents beware:  Whenever your representatives don’t want you to know something, it’s probably because you won’t like it, and you usually won’t like it for a good reason.

You want a dome, Birmingham?  Great!  I’m happy for you.  If it’s feasible as a money-maker, then a private corporation will be at your feet to build it.  You may have to throw out a few tax incentives bread crumbs, but they’ll come where they can make money.  And with a new entertainment district in the making, you will likely have that happen in a few years.

The problem as I see it is that many in Birmingham want progress to happen yesterday.  They don’t want to wait for what they want.  They want it now, now, NOW!  And like anyone who uses a credit card on an impulse buy rather than to save and shop around, they’ll get a bad deal rather than a bargain on the initial price for the same great product, and they’ll pay even more in interest.  Part of growing up is to learn to delay gratification for your best interests.  We compare ourselves to Atlanta and Nashville and easily forget that they didn’t get the way they were overnight.
So let’s say we wait for that entertainment district.  The state even throws in some money to improve mass transit and interstates and other traffic into the city.  (You may want to take a look at the airport.  You can’t attract people who will bring their money to Birmingham if they can’t even get here.)  In a few years, you throw out some tax incentives, and some private investor comes along and decides to build it.  You have new jobs (and likely less crime as a result), new revenue (and new tax revenue to fund things like schools), and new businesses to accommodate the influx of more people.  Those new jobs from the new businesses begin the cycle anew.  Meanwhile, you’ve had some growing pains, but they aren’t so bad because city government has saved some money and can spend that elsewhere– like on schools and public services.

Now, let’s look at the other possibility…  The dome is built and the entertainment district is just getting started.  It could succeed or fail, but there’s little to really attract people to Birmingham from out of state or even out of country.  Considering how well most government-run things go (think FEMA), the odds aren’t in favor of the dome succeeding.  The city, meanwhile, is heavily in debt over having built the dome and hasn’t been able to spend money elsewhere– like on schools.  As a result of a decaying education situation in Birmingham and more dropouts, crime rates soar, and nobody wants to go into Birmingham for fear of being mugged.  The dome isn’t making money, and you have another Visionland situation.  Birmingham is even worse off than it was to begin with.

Typically, government ventures aren’t known for making money.  They’re known for waste and inefficiency, but profit is not a word that comes to mind.  The money that they do bring in is tax revenue…  earned by YOU.

Meanwhile, who are the folks who will hurt the most?  The poorest of us.  They spend the biggest chunk of their income on such luxuries as food and clothing.  While a sales tax increase will affect the upper and middle classes, the percentage of tax paid goes up as the amount of income you bring home goes down.  It’s the most regressive tax of all.

The reason why Larry Langford and friends didn’t want their plan released early is most likely because they didn’t want you to have time to consider all that.


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