I had hoped the Republican leadership in the Legislature would recognize the obvious need this year for ad valorem tax reform in Alabama. But I must admit that it was “wishful thinking” on my part. The two top-ranking members of the Alabama Legislature testified recently in a federal court trial and made it very clear that property taxes would not be raised in Alabama. The lawsuit seeks to strike down the state’s current property tax laws. House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh testified in trial that GOP members of both houses had taken 2010 campaign pledges of “no new taxes.” Each said that in the current economic climate there would be no push to raise taxes.
The federal lawsuit against the State of Alabama was brought by families of schoolchildren in Lawrence and Sumter counties. The lawsuit alleges the current property tax system discriminates against black schoolchildren because it taxes timber and farm land well below fair market value, leaving poor school districts with a too-small tax base. The Plaintiffs are asking U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith, a veteran and widely-respected jurist, to find the property laws in the 1901 Alabama Constitution and subsequent amendments in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. They want Judge Smith to strike the laws down and give the Legislature a year to fix the problems.
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