The Danger of Asking Alabamians to Pay A Fair Share of Taxes

By SLADE BLACKWELL / Guest Columnist
In his 2015 State of the State Address, Governor Bentley said, “If Alabama families have to pay their fair share of taxes, so should large national and international corporations.”
In some respects, the point makes sense. We should try to avoid picking winners and losers with the tax code. At the same time, we must look to establish broad, evenly applied taxes at the least burdensome rate possible to pay our bills as a state. We have any number of choices in how we do that, but almost every change to the tax code leaves some group of voters upset. That is a political reality, but not a sufficient reason to avoid the topic.
Frankly, my colleagues and I are overdue to have the conversation about how we assess tax in Alabama.
The problem occurs when start throwing around “fairness” in a way that means something entirely different than moving towards a broader tax base with lower rates and fewer special carve outs.
While I believe Governor Bentley’s proposals are well intended, he is combining two separate conversations about taxes in Alabama and treating them as one.
The first conversation is the one my colleagues and I are willing to have: Is our tax system giving our state the best chance for economic growth and keeping as much money as possible in the pockets of Alabama families?
The second conversation is much less popular given the perspectives of many of our constituents: Does Alabama need a net tax increase to meet our obligations?
We need to improve our tax code and Governor Bentley raises several important points about inefficiencies in the way we tax. At the same time, I do not believe that the state government we currently operate is so efficient that we need to impose a higher overall tax burden in Alabama.
Many of us may agree that Alabama needs to have a hard conversation about its taxes and budget structures, but we have a lot of work to do this session before we ever consider going to the people and businesses of Alabama and ask them for more of their money.
Slade Blackwell is a state senator who represents portions of Shelby County.