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The Millbrook Independent

May 24th
Tax by ambush
Written by News Desk   
Tuesday, 15 January 2013 14:33

art webBy Art Parker This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

In a boring management class I had at Auburn the professor was lecturing on the importance of managerial control. He used an example of always doing the right thing as a manager by telling us the story of a sailor on a ship.

The sailor was delegated the responsibility of making sure several canons were tied down before the night was over. The sailor agreed to the task and then promptly took a nap. He awoke in the nick of time and saw the canons rolling about the deck endangering life, limb and of course loss of the canons should they crash the rails and go overboard. The sailor hustled about and eventually tied the canons down and avoided all problems.

The next day the captain of the ship, in the presence of all hands, awarded a medal to the sailor for solving the dangerous problem. Once he pinned the medal on his chest the captain stepped back, pulled out his pistol and shot the sailor dead. The shooting was for causing the problem in the first place. The lesson learned from this is to reward those who do a good job and solve problems but get rid of those that cause the problems in the first place. I remember the professor referring to this management method as "The Gun."

In no way am I advocating the use of a gun but shouldn't we the voters use our power to get rid of politicians who create the many problems we have?

One incident that reminds me of the sailor story comes to mind. Last year HB120 was introduced in the 2012 regular session of the Alabama Legislature and became law (Act 2012-313) after it passed both houses without a dissenting vote. The bill's sole sponsor, Jack Williams (R-Dist 47), has now pre-filed HB19 for the 2013 regular session, which substantively repeals Act 2012-313 by reverting most of the provisions changed in HB120 to their original language.

The bill that passed last year, which is current law, removed an exemption from LOCAL property taxes for disabled homeowners with a net taxable income of $12,000 or more. Prior to 2005, disabled taxpayers who had a net taxable income of $7,500 or less qualified for a total exemption from all LOCAL property taxes. In 2005, an attorney general's opinion stated that a person who was permanently and totally disabled was exempt from all LOCAL property taxes regardless of income. HB120 reinstated an income threshold so that this LOCAL tax exemption only applies to disabled taxpayers whose combined net taxable income is $12,000 or less. After the passage of HB120 disabled homeowners whose net taxable income exceeds $12,000 only receive the "regular" homestead exemption. This exemption reduces the homestead's assessed value by $2,000.

Williams' HB120 required anyone who previously received a homestead exemption based on age or disability (except the blind) to "recertify" his or her exemption. This caused mass confusion and uproar from people. Taxpayers now had to recertify the fact that they were still disabled or that they were still 65 or older. HB19 not only retains this provision it provides criminal penalties (Class B misdemeanor) for knowingly or willfully providing false information to obtain an exemption.

In Elmore County qualifying residents received a letter from Revenue Commissioner Mike Harper about the changes in the law. That letter from Harper warned that failure to respond to the exemption recertification request by December 31, 2012 may result in the taxpayer losing their entire homestead exemption. Presumably this is true in other counties as these provisions are supposed to be uniform throughout the state.

Mike Hubbard, Alabama's Speaker of the House, sent a memo to House members on September 28, 2012 painting a picture that the legislature was doing Alabama taxpayers a favor by passing this law. Hubbard said in the memo that according to the Legislative Fiscal Office this bill will lower the property tax liabilities in the collective for Alabamians who are permanently disabled or 65 plus. He added that this action would cost the state coffers $6 million. I can't help but wonder how much money the state will make when they deny taxpayers the exemptions they are entitled to, just because they failed to "recertify" their obvious condition. Furthermore HB120 provided that homeowners 65 or older would now have their spouse's income considered in the means test for homestead exemptions. How many disabled vets over 65 with a household income just over $12,000 will no longer receive the blanket exemption they have come to expect?

Now, to the management of those that screw things up in the first place. The bill to repeal last year's mentally deficient action is sponsored by several folks and not just the original sponsor. This tells me that several want to be viewed as the "hero" in addition to Williams. What we need to remember is not the group that wants to be heroes, but the real villains in the first place. To get rid of the legislative villians voters should be ready with our "gun" and fire our bullets at the ballot box.

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