Why West Virginians can thank God for Alabama
Alabama has the dubious honor of being No. 1 in something that no state should be proud of: We are the only one that charges income tax to a family of four earning less than $10,000 annually.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington nonprofit group, says that until 2005, Alabama and Kentucky were the only states in this category. Alabama's tax threshold for two parents and two children was $4,600, and Kentucky's was $5,600. In 2005, Kentucky raised its figure to $19,400 (16th from the bottom). Alabama's remains unchanged.
So being No. 1 is nothing new. It's just that now it's the people in West Virginia ($10,000) who are saying "Thank God for Alabama" instead of those in Kentucky. Mississippi, the state Alabamians used to thank God for, has a threshold of $19,600.
Now is the time for Alabama to do better. The state is in unusually good financial shape, and politicians are working feverishly to pass out pork, pay raises, increases in retirement benefits, and other election-year goodies. But the greatest moral priority should be tax relief for poor people.
The Legislature is, in fact, considering five competing plans to cut taxes on the poor. One issue is whether the lost revenue should be collected from wealthier people, perhaps those earning over $100,000 a year. If that's what it takes to grant an appropriate amount of relief to the poor and to avoid revenue problems in the future, so be it.
Let's put West Virginia on the spot.