An important trend is developing in national politics that should spread to Alabama.
Several prominent Republicans have signaled their recognition that their first loyalty must be to their constituents, not to an anti-tax pledge they signed for lobbyist Grover Norquist.
Among those with the courage to speak out: U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.
None of these officials are saying an increase in taxes is a good thing. They are, however, acknowledging that effective leadership precludes taking possible solutions off the table. America faces thorny problems, and our leaders need flexibility in solving them.
Nowhere has the Norquist pledge been more out of step or more damaging than in Alabama.
Most of the state’s elected federal officials signed the pledge, even though Alabama disproportionately benefits from increased national revenue. For every dollar in federal taxes Alabama raises, it gets $1.67 back. That’s not proof that federal taxes should go higher, but it suggests the issue is more complex for poor states like Alabama that benefit heavily from federal expenditures.
Alabama’s elected state officials are especially vocal in their anti-tax positions. Our lowest-in-the-nation taxes, however, have not resulted in growth. At $34,880, the state’s per capita income is 42nd in the nation, about the same as it has been for a decade. The state’s poverty rate is perpetually high and its budget deficiencies are chronic. Political influence means that many of those with the highest income pay the least to support state government.
Tax increases are never ideal, but sometimes the consequences of not raising them are worse.