Gov. Bentley’s 2015 tax increase

State of the State...

The Alabama Governor’s Press Office has released no official information about the tax increase proposal Gov. Robert Bentley has referred to in several public appearances since early January. The press office says a news release is being prepared, but has not been scheduled for release yet. Following is a summary of what has been reported so far concerning the Governor’s tax proposal.

• Gov. Bentley last week told a group at an early childhood conference in Montgomery that he would propose a $700 million tax increase during his State of the State address on March 3.

• He said the package of measures would be presented to the Legislature and could be passed without approval by voters.

• The immediate budget shortfall is $250 million; the longer-term deficit is in the $700-$800 million range.

• The package he will propose will not include property tax increases.

• Increased revenues would be used to move $187 million that had been used to prop up the General Fund back to the education budget, and $63 million in gasoline taxes, also rerouted to the General Fund, back to the bridges and roads budget.

• The remainder would be used to pay back money borrowed during the recession and to remit money owed the federal government, among other items.

• He said cuts have been made and efficiencies realized in recent years, but the budget deficit can’t be fixed by further cutting state budgets for vital services.

• Bentley said the choice Alabama faces is to either increase revenue or cut some state agencies to the point they can no longer function.

• Other critical needs not being met include public schools, public safety (low number of state troopers), overcrowded prisons, and public health (Medicaid, mental health).

• The Alabama Republican Party’s executive committee passed a resolution, reported last week, asking the Legislature not to approve Bentley’s proposed tax increases.

• The last attempt to raise tax revenues significantly was Gov. Bob Riley’s ill-fated $1.2 billion tax hike proposal 12 years ago. It was defeated by Alabama voters by a 2-1 margin.

• Alabama Public Television will air the Governor’s address in a program beginning at 6 p.m. next Tuesday, with the speech itself set to begin at 6:30 p.m.