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SUNDAY, APRIL 1, 2007
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CAPITOL LETTER
Budgets; wheeling and dealing; possible tax relief is in the air

By M.J. Ellington
mjellington@decaturdaily.com · (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Three weeks into the Legislature’s regular session, lawmakers have yet to tackle the budgets and still have partisan disagreements.

But with departmental budget hearings out of the way, there is hope legislators will get down to serious work on the budgets.

About those budgets

A possible struggle looms about how to divide education construction bond money between K-12 schools and higher education. K-12 would like 75 percent to 80 percent. Colleges and universities want 40 percent.

Speculation is that the split will be about 75 percent for K-12 and 25 percent for colleges and universities.

About those raises

Speaking of raises, state employees want a 7 percent raise from the General Fund budget, which is about $100 million larger than last year’s. Number crunchers are working on the possibilities.

Pushing PAC to PAC

Stepping out of his office’s traditional role, Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. will urge support of a PAC-to-PAC transfer bill during a meeting of the Senate governmental affairs committee at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the State House.

The bill would ban fund transfers between political action committees.

Folsom said he and Senate President Pro Tem Hinton Mitchem, D-Union Grove, campaigned on PAC reform.

Folsom asked for the bill to go to the committee because Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, will efficiently move the bill forward. The House passed the PAC-to-PAC bill the first week of the session, for the sixth time in six years. For five years, the measure died in the Senate.

Chipping away at rules

Sens. Tom Butler, D-Madison, and Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, say to expect slow or no action again in the Senate on Tuesday unless there is progress negotiating change in Senate rules.

They are part of a coalition pushing to change Senate rules to allow longer debate on bills before a vote. They also want recorded votes on all bills, so people will know how their lawmakers voted, and to eliminate the practice of “walking a bill” out of committee and onto the Senate calendar without a meeting.

Preaching to the choir

Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, sounded a little like a preacher when he announced a package of tax reform proposals to an Alabama ARISE day at the Capitol gathering Thursday.

Surrounded by advocates for the poor and disabled, Knight said he hopes for the same sort of success he had last year when the state raised the income level at which people begin paying state income taxes to $12,600.

This year he wants to raise the threshold to $17,800, but he said support from other lawmakers may be harder to get. Some lawmakers question Knight’s plan to remove the federal income tax deduction on state tax forms.

After-hours work
on income tax forms

If you have questions while doing your income tax return, the state Department of Revenue offers this phone number: (334) 546-9258.

After-hours help is available from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays between now and April 17. The department will also answer questions at the same number from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, April 15 through Tuesday, April 17. Taxes are due this year on April 17, not April 15.

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