Tax will not help general fund

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 13, 2004

MONTGOMERY &045;Certainly the news is encouraging that state tax collections have risen 9.5 percent in the first quarter of the fiscal year, but it is sort of a mixed blessing.

The taxes which have shown healthy increases since Oct. 1, 2003, are the two most directly tied to the state of the economy … the sales and income taxes … and both of them are earmarked for education.

That is good news for schools, but it is of little comfort to agencies funded from the General Fund, which is staring at a $300 million deficit.

Even the turnaround in the sales and income tax collections has to be viewed cautiously, according to a spokesman for the State Revenue Department.

John Mann, director of research for the department, took a cautious, wait-and-see, attitude: &uot;It is not a big, robust, booming recovery.&uot;

In a related item, Gov. Bob Riley has indicated that the fiscal crisis in state government is of such magnitude that he likely will call a special session of the Alabama Legislature to address the problem.

He indicated he was leaning toward having the lawmakers recess their 2004 regular session shortly after it kicks off on Feb. 3, and reconvening in extraordinary session to tackle the funding problems.

Opponents of gambling who have been wailing and gnashing their teeth at the high-stakes bingo operations now off and running in Macon and Greene counties should be forewarned: More gambling may be on the way.

A bill is now being advertised in the North Jackson Progress which would authorize the operation of a greyhound dog track at Bridgeport.

While the legal ad does not identify the sponsor of this legislation, it is safe to say it wouldn’t be offered without the advice and consent of State Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, who represents Jackson County.

Bridgeport is near the Tennessee and Georgia state lines, within easy driving distance of such huge population centers as Chattanooga and Atlanta as well as Huntsville.

Alfa Mutual Insurance Company of Montgomery has made a $1 million contribution that will ensure that the highly acclaimed Alabama Shakespeare SchoolFest program will continue for two more years.

During the past 17 years, more than 650,000 Alabama schoolchildren have come to the theater to participate in the program.

However, after the defeat of Amendment No. 1 last fall, the Legislature slashed the state appropriation to ASF by $422,000 making it most likely the SchoolFest program would have to be discontinued.

Charles Stakely, president of ASF’s board of directors, summed up the gift thusly: &uot;Alfa saved SchoolFest, pure and simple.&uot;

I concluded a long time ago that while football fans and golfers and fishermen can be fanatic about their sport, their fanaticism doesn’t come close to matching that of hunters. They are a different breed.

For proof of that, consider what happened recently when the Alabama Department of Conservation announced it would hold a two-day deer hunt late this month at Oak Mountain State Park to reduce the deer population there.

Only bowhunters would be allowed … and only 70 of them. The department asked for those interested in participating to submit an application (along with proof they were qualified bowhunters) and in lottery-like fashion, the 70 winners would be selected.

As of a few days ago, some 5,200 hunters had filed their applications.

Dr. David Bronner, the CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA). is wearing a lot of hats these days.

You know about the network of golf courses Bronner/RSA built and operates; the 36 television stations and 180 newspapers it owns; and more recently RSA became majority stockholder of an airline (US Air).

Last week, an affiliate of RSA &045; Alabama Real Estate Holdings Inc. &045; was selected as the firm to build and operate a multi-million dollar cruise ship terminal in Mobile.

Golf … media … airlines … a cruise line. One could say the man once referred to as a &uot;Whiz Kid&uot; has not slowed down much since becoming a card-carrying member of the AARP.