Read it to make your decision

I’m probably one of only five people in the entire state of Alabama who have read every single word of the legislation we will vote on next week.

After all, there are almost 1,000 words in the total document, a document that consists of 20 separate House and Senate bills.

The bills, ranging from 20-150 pages in length, address numerous individual issues including the Constitutional Amendment itself; cigarette taxes; property taxes; utility gross receipt taxes; deed and mortgage recording taxes; sales and use taxes; insurance premium taxes; business privilege taxes; income taxes; financial institutions excise taxes; fiscal year 2004 education budget provisions; the teacher suspension/termination process; other education employeers suspension/termination process; the foundation program; teacher scholarships; the administrator accountability act; school fiscal management and responsibility; the student scholarship program; state employees’ and teacher’s health insurance and retirement; and pass-through appropriations.

I’ve read them all, and there are still things I don’t understand.

First and foremost is why we have to vote on all of these as one package.

I would have liked to have been able to choose. There are portions of the package which are entirely valid.

Large landowners and timber owners have not paid a fair amount in property taxes throughout Alabama’s history. That’s for sure.

&uot;Current use&uot; offers them a break on the amount they pay, a break which I believe was unfair to begin with.

This package curbs excess current use to a point. There’s still some to go, in my opinion; but that was a step in the right direction.

Increases in property taxes, in general, would be a positive for the state of Alabama; and I probably would vote for such an increase.

Proponents of the governor’s plan are correct when they say that increases such as those in the plan would still keep Alabama’s property taxes as some of the lowest in the nation.

Another portion of the plan which I just don’t understand deals with pass-through pork.

Yes, there are criminal penalties for those who participate in pass-through pork projects.

But those criminal penalties are for the heads of the departments in which legislators attempt to funnel the funds. There is no criminal penalty for the legislators who attempt to steal the money from the Alabama taxpayer in the same way they’ve been stealing it for years and years.

Now, let me ask &045; where’s the accountability in that?

Sure, that agency director should be punished; but what about the legislator?

This is a step in the right direction, sure, but it really just does not go far enough for me.

I’ve already written in the space how I feel about the governor’s scholarship program.

Rewarding mediocre students with state-funded educations is a mistake when our state is already facing a shortfall in funding.

That’s the reason this package is so incredibly large &045; we’ve added so much that also needs funding.

All in all, I would say there are some areas in the governor’s package that hit the nail right on the head.

They meet the needs of Alabama in a way that has never been attempted before.

However, the questions seem to outweigh the package’s positive aspects.

Having educated myself about the package backward and forward, I can only recommend that others do the same.

Once you have, the decision you make on your ballot will become clear.

Candace Parker is the news editor of the Shelby County Reporter. She can be reached at mailto:candace.parker@shelbycountyreporter.com