Category: Taxes

Problems with Governor Bentley’s Alabama Prison Transformation Act

Problems with the Governors $800MM plan:

·        It does not follow the Competitive Bid Law; authorizes No Bid Contracts.

O The competitive bid law is in place to protect taxpayers’ dollars and protect against coercion and collusion.  Competitively bidding all public works projects is the law in Alabama and it provides the best price with the job completed on time and brings transparency in the use of tax payers dollars. It’s the taxpayers’ method of comparative shoppingAny construction on prisons must be bid competitively  using sealed bids opened publicly.

·         The funding for this prison project is extremely concerning.

O The $800 Million Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative Act would ultimately cost at least $1.5 billion and would create a bond debt that Alabamians will be paying on for 30 years and in perpetuity if the Governor sees fit.  

O The prison bill calls for Gov. Robert Bentley [and future Governors] and two of his appointed cabinet members to have full authority—by statute—to not only borrow $800 million for his ambitious prison plans but to keep it from public review, thus giving the Governor carte blanche with no real oversight.  The use of a lease revenue bond will stop the public from voicing its opinion on borrowing the money while keeping the almost one billion dollars borrowed off the books and in the hands of a very small group.

·         It moves prisons out of the communities that have invested in them and rely on them for employment.

o The investments in infrastructure made by communities with prisons to sustain those prisons were leveraged based on the service provided to the prison system.  If they lose these prisons the debt service will still have to be paid by citizens through increased utility rates or local taxes.  These are the same citizens who will be losing their jobs. 

O The loss of direct and indirect jobs would create a negative economic impact on communities that is so significant that it would take many years to recover.

·         The enormous cost that will not solve the prison-overcrowding problem or health care problems.

O Sentencing reform passed in 2013 has already started reducing the inmate population from 27,000 before the reforms to 23,000 today. The Bentley plan would only accommodate a total of 16,000 inmates, and in five years the system will still be at 125% capacity. Why not just build one additional prison to specifically address the overcrowding needs?

O There are 4 prisons that were built after the 1990’s: Bullock, Ventress, Easterling, Bibb.  Bibb was built in 1998.  It is difficult to argue that these structures are in need of replacement.

O Why have we not already purchased the private Perry County facility which would hold 800 inmates and for which bond money was legislated in 2010 under Gov. Riley.  Almost 7 years later, nothing has been done to buy it and lower occupancy elsewhere.  This Perry County facility would hold 800 inmates.

O The Governor says the debt will be paid through savings by reducing the hours and numbers of correctional officers. However, the prisons are already severely short on correctional officers.    

O The immediate need is for increased expenditures on medical care and mental health care, not overcrowding.  This bill does not address these medical needs, yet this is the issue about which the courts have expressed concern.

 

Recommendations:

·         Place inmates in City and County jails to relieve immediate overcrowding.

·         Buy the Perry County Facility.

·         Make the necessary renovations to existing facilities and bid the work out.  Once the renovations are competitively bid, the price will probably be less than current projections.

·         If necessary, build one new facility following the competitive bid law.  It is the law.

 

 

 

 

 

“A Lottery will make the poor pay their ‘fair share'” by J. Pepper Bryars on al.com

J. Pepper Bryars, who grew up in Mobile and lives in Huntsville, is a conservative columnist for AL.com. Contact him at www.jpepperbryars.com.

We often hear that the rich should be made to pay their “fair share,” but the top 20% of earners are already paying about 84% of our nation’s income taxes.

Some say that’s a reasonable apportionment from each according to their ability, but here’s a modest proposal for consideration: maybe it’s time for the poor to actually start paying their fair share in taxes.

Outrageous? No more than feeding our unwanted children to the rich. But still, how can we tax the poor without seeming like a monstrous mix of Ebenezer Scrooge and Montgomery Burns?

Our lawmakers in Alabama have finally found the secret answer: a lottery.

You may be skeptical that a lottery could deliver additional revenue on the backs of the poor, but other states have experimented with them for decades and have thoroughly perfected the trick.

Duke University found that the poorest third of households buy more than half of all lottery tickets, and a University of Buffalo survey showed that the lowest fifth on the socioeconomic scale had the “highest rate of lottery gambling (61%).”

Studies in Texas, Connecticut, South Carolina, and Minnesota also show that those with below-average incomes purchase a majority of scratch-off tickets. That’s partly because, as the Duke study found, poorer neighborhoods are saturated with get-rich-quick lottery advertisements for games with tempting names like “Win for Life, ” “Golden Ticket,” and “Holiday Cash.”

And get this: a study in California found that lottery sales actually increase with poverty rates. It’s recession proof!

We get to hook their children, too. A Yale University study revealed that “receipts of scratch-off lottery tickets as gifts during childhood … was associated with risky/problematic gambling.” Teach them when they’re young, as the saying goes.

We never have to worry about the lottery being repealed, either. The poor don’t hire lobbyists to help avoid taxes, and when they vote it’s often for self-serving or incompetent politicians. For instance, those shouting the loudest for a lottery actually represent the poorest parts of Alabama.

If those reams of scientific studies aren’t convincing, take my personal word for it – the poor will pay.

I grew up poor, and not just relatively speaking. We fell below the federal poverty line for a family our size many times over the years, and I can recall how my father once blew the lion’s share of his paycheck gambling at the dog track in Mobile. It hurt. We weren’t the kind of family who could absorb a lost paycheck. Bills simply went unpaid … and our family simply went without.

Later on, a close family member’s husband blew three paychecks in a row at the casinos over in Mississippi. They were poor, too, and were eventually evicted from their rental house. Their family never recovered, and it eventually fell apart.

But who cares, right? Gambling is a victimless and voluntary vice, and we have no right to stop a grown man from wagering his family’s income on a chance to “Win for Life” or to get some “Holiday Cash.” Besides, it’s not our fault if children are caught up in the scheme, even if it’s sanctioned by the people and managed by the state.

Still, I remain worried that Alabamians won’t approve the lottery.

Think about it. If the poor knew that lotteries were actually wealth redistribution in reverse or that their children would likely grow up addicted to gambling, they wouldn’t vote for it … right?

If their elected representatives knew that a lottery would raise the taxes of their poorest constituents, they wouldn’t vote for it … right?

If the Democrats, who style themselves as defenders of the poor, learned that a lottery takes advantage of the most vulnerable among us, they wouldn’t vote for it … right?

And if the Republicans, who style themselves as the keepers of our Judeo-Christian values, knew that a lottery’s get-rich-quick advertising campaigns “exploit the poor because they are poor (Proverbs, 22:22),” they wouldn’t vote for it … right?

I’m not sure. All of this experience and evidence presents an overwhelming and convincing case that a lottery is a hidden tax on the poor.

Thankfully, nobody seems to know these things.

Nobody, that is, but you.

 

http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/08/a_lottery_will_make_the_poor_p.html