Archived Story

Democrats’ agenda focuses on working class

Published 7:59am Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Last week, the Alabama Democrats in the Legislature set out our agenda, one that is focused on the working people and small businesses of our state.

Working people and small businesses did not cause the recession, but they certainly have suffered its worst effects. While banks and major corporations were bailed-out and protected, people lost their jobs, local companies couldn’t get credit, folks lost their homes and savings, and small firms went out of business.

It is time that working people and local small business, the great engine of our country, are the priority instead of the special interests.

It is also the best way to get our economy going again. Small business employs the most people, and the recovery of small business is the best way to get unemployment down and people back to work.

Making sure there is a level playing field for small business is critical. As we move forward during this legislative session, it is becoming clear that our own state tax system puts local companies at a disadvantage compared to large out-of-state corporations. Our tax code is riddled with loopholes and unclear language that armies of tax lawyers and accountants have been exploiting, and making our state look like a fool in the process.

How bad is it? In 2005 just over 1,000 major corporations, many household names, made $105 billion in income and paid no Alabama income taxes. You and I pay state income taxes, revenue that is earmarked solely for schools. Yet large global companies doing business here get away without paying a dime.

Not only does this hurt education, it absolutely puts local businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

State Rep. Richard Lind¬sey, D-Centre, former chair of the House committee charged with writing the state school budget, is no stranger to how tax dodgers and gimmicks take money from education. For years he has worked to shut down the loopholes. Back in 2008, he worked to close a loophole using something called a real estate investment trust, a scheme where corporations sell their Alabama buildings to a wholly owned subsidiary and then pay themselves high rent for a massive deduction. It was a hard fight, but we finally passed a bill closing that loophole. Or so we thought.

Now it seems the tax lawyers and accountants have found a way to get around that law and many others. Lindsey is drafting new legislation that will close these loopholes once and for all. It can save the jobs of thousands of teachers while making sure major corporations pay the same taxes as local small business, thereby leveling the playing field.

Democrats recognize that working people have been doing their part, and its time that they have a tax cut. We propose eliminating the state sales tax on groceries, which would immediately put money back into the pockets of working families by bringing down the food bill. In order to make sure education isn’t cut along with the grocery tax, we can further close loopholes that allow companies like Exxon to pay virtually nothing in Alabama taxes. Exxon is the most profitable company in the world, and is currently reaping huge windfalls with the spike in gas prices.

Alabama Democrats choose working people over an oil giant. Regardless of what the special interests say, making a company like Exxon pay taxes like you and me will not harm one single job. In fact it will save jobs by preventing another round of teacher layoffs.

Alabama’s working people and local small business are the focus of Alabama Democrats. Prosperity and liberty are ensured when we do right by them.

Johnny Mack Morrow is a state representative for Franklin County. His column appears each Wednesday.

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