When fellow contributor Dan voiced his YES vote for Amendment 1 (ad valorem tax fees, charges, or commissions) in his post “Gobbledygook”, I knew that I needed to review my NO vote to Amendment 1. After all, Dan -IS- a political genius (just ask him).
The opportunity to present more information about the amendment came about when Sonny Brasfield, Executive Director of the Association of County Commissioners of Alabama, contacted Flashpoint offering “to help make some sense of the proposal”. The ACCA says vote YES on Amendment 1:
Statewide Amendment 1 on the November ballot would preserve a cost-sharing agreement that pays the cost of collecting taxes. It will fix an issue that, if not corrected, will shift more of these tax collection costs to other entities of government – such as the state, counties, cities, volunteer fire departments, hospitals and others.
Amendment 1 repeals the key provision of Amendment 778 “Minimum ad valorem tax rate for general school purposes” which says “The proceeds from said tax shall not, any provisions of any law or of this constitution to the contrary notwithstanding, be subject to any fees, charges or commissions for assessment or collection by any person whatever, it being the intent hereof that the full amounts of the proceeds of said tax collected shall be used for general public school purposes.”
The legislature and the citizens of Alabama voted in 2006 to pass Amendment 778 (the 10 mill bill), which was a school tax increase with the express “intent” that the “full amounts” of the tax “shall be used for schools”. Amendment 1 repeals that provision. Once we get past all of the gobbledygook, that is the bottom line.
Don’t get me wrong – Amendment 778 was a craptacular bill that ‘imposed a tax increase on districts who didn’t meet a minimum 10 mils by asking the voters in other districts to vote yes because it won’t affect them’ (paraphrased from Brian’s 2006 summary). One of the key selling points was that it was all for the children (“full amounts”).
The ACCA says:
The amendment is needed because of an unintended consequence from another constitutional amendment passed in 2006 [Amendment 778]. The correction deals only with the allocation of the costs of collecting ad valorem taxes between the different agencies that receive the ad valorem tax proceeds. Without Amendment 1, the long-standing process of each agency paying its proportional cost of the collection services will be changed by the 2006 amendment (which was not intended).
“Unintended consequence”? Nope. The tax collection works exactly as intended and understood by the people in 2006.
From the ACCA:
We did support the amendment in 2006 and continue to support it. When the amendment was moving through the legislature, we were asked to agree that the additional mils levied by the amendment would be exempt from paying the administrative costs. We felt this was fair – since the intent of the 2006 amendment was to get more money to education in the first place. Additionally, it would not cost more to collect the additional mils so it also seemed fair not to apply the administrative fee to those mils.
However, as education mils that existed before 2006 expire, they will move from the position of contributing to the cost of collection to a position of NOT contributing to the cost – because the language in the 2006 amendment was never intended to apply to anything other than the mils levied initially in 2006. It was, simply put, a mistake in drafting of the 2006 amendment.
We are only clarifying that to do what all the entities involved believed was done originally.
The ACCA says that “the state, counties, cities, volunteer fire departments, hospitals and others” would bear the cost of collecting the school tax, while using words like “could” and “potentially” to describe the impact. So I asked the ACCA if actual ’harm’ occurred? In other words, have volunteer fire departments et al actually been forced to absorb tax collection charges so that children get the ‘maximized’ new money? The ACCA response:
The education mils in Alabama must be renewed (they are not levied forever). Some are renewed every 10 years, others every 20 years depending on the constitutional provisions. There have been no mils that have expired (as far as I know) since 2006, but a number of mils are set to expire before the next statewide election (in 2012) so that is why the words like “potentially” are use. If the existing mils (those in place before 2006) expire, replacement mils will automatically be levied under the terms of the 2006 amendment. There will be no impact to the taxpayer, but when the mils are “re-levied” they will fall under the 2006 wording and, therefore, won’t pay their portion of the cost. The harm has not occurred yet, but will before we get another opportunity to correct it in 2012.
Thanks to the ACCA for providing additional information about Amendment 1. I’ve heard that Brasfield is a good guy (from a legislator who says NO to Amendment 1).
While I’m sympathetic to the ACCA’s argument that “re-levied” taxes won’t pay their share of the costs of tax collection, the argument that everyone in the smoke-filled backrooms made a mistake and then fed it to the people is unpersuasive. So the legislature didn’t intend for the craptacular Amendment 778 to really mean what the text clearly says? How about reading the bills? How about writing bills that aren’t written in Gobbledygook? The people who voted for Amendment 778 weren’t in on the deal – they were told that all of the taxes would go to education. Think about THE CHILDREN – Amendment 1 takes money away from education (there’s some of my notorious hyperbole).
I have a solution to the Amendment 778 mistake – repeal the entire amendment! That way the ‘will of the people’ won’t have been subject to a bait and switch. The people voted for taxes to fully fund education. If Amendment 1 passes – the people are left with a regular old tax increase. That is not what the people were sold with Amendment 778. Since Amendment 778 has the potential to ‘harm’ the funding of other areas of government (I see the validity of ACCA and Dan’s argument), repealing Amendment 778 solves the problem. Repeal gets rid of the pig AND the poke.
VOTE NO to Amendment 1!