House Dems complain about education budget

Published 1:43 pm Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A day after the Republican-controlled Alabama House passed the education budget and a bill that would require teachers to pay more for insurance and retirement, House Democrats voiced their opposition to the measures.

Democrats held a press conference with a group of teachers. The House education budget will now go to the Senate for debate.

“We are acting on an education budget before all means of funding have been explored,” said Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre. “These cuts to the classroom, teacher pay, and benefits could have been avoided had we closed corporate tax loopholes.”

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Democrats have proposed a set of bills that would close those corporate tax loopholes. Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, has already recommended the closure of one of those loopholes that allows multi-state businesses to claim income earned in Alabama was actually earned elsewhere.

Democrats cited a report from the Alabama Department of Revenue that revealed several multinational corporations that have either paid no state income taxes or heavily reduced their taxable income through loopholes in state tax laws.

The report shows that in 2003, Exxon made $89 million in Alabama but paid no state income taxes. Over a four-year period, Walmart saved $230 million in state taxes by paying rent to itself. McDonald’s reduced its taxable income by 55 percent after deducting $500 million in payments to itself.

“These are the kinds of tax loopholes that we could close in order to avoid cutting funding to schools or cutting teachers’ pay,” state Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said.

Democrats argued that the budget was rushed through the Legislature without time to consider its implications or alternative funding sources.

“Instead of protecting Alabama’s students and teachers, the Republicans chose to protect billion dollar, out-of-state corporations,” said House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden. “Walmart and McDonald’s aren’t going to leave the state if we close the corporate tax loopholes. But if we continue to cut teacher pay and benefits, increase class sizes, and cut teachers’ resources, then the best and brightest teachers may leave and teach in another state. No one wants that for our children.”