Occupational tax an unearned tip

Published 3:13 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The new Jefferson County occupational tax, passed last week by the Alabama legislature, likely saves the state’s largest county from sure bankruptcy and puts many good people employed by the county back to work.

Beyond those two points, good is hard to find in the passage of the new tax from the perspective of those of us living south of Jefferson County.

The new tax will consume 0.45 percent of the wages earned by anyone working in Jefferson County, which obviously includes thousands of Shelby Countians who travel to and from Jefferson County to work each day.

Why should people in Shelby County, or any other county in the metro area, be forced to pay to fix the financial woes in Jefferson County, which were brought about by decades of poor legislation and countless years of financial mismanagement?

That’s precisely the question being asked in carpool lanes and coffee shops across Shelby County in the days since Gov. Bob Riley signed the tax into law.

It’s safe to say few have much confidence in the leadership or direction of Jefferson county. Now, with the new tax, residents of Shelby County will be forced to fund the expenditures of a county commission they are unable to vote in or out of office.

The majority of members of the Shelby County legislative delegation voted against the new tax and deserve praise for doing so. They, perhaps like so many of their constituents, see the new tax as nothing more than a patch on a broken county government. The tax is unlikely to fix anything other than the current crisis and won’t lead to better or smarter government.

An ad campaign by the investment group Morgan Stanley from some years back comes to mind. “You must pay taxes, but there’s no law that says you gotta leave a tip.”

Turns out thousands of Shelby County residents will indeed be leaving a tip each time they collect a paycheck in Jefferson County.