Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Well, this is stupid.

Judge Distributes Reclaimed Tobacco Tax

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Circuit Court Judge Dan King has decided that the seven Jefferson County cities that have collected a tobacco tax over the last year will not keep the money.

Instead, a third of the collected money will go to plaintiff attorneys. Another $50,000 will go to the Bessemer Board of Education. The rest will be paid to Cooper Green Hospital to help patients with smoke-related illnesses.

Late last year, the seven municipalities started collecting a 10-cent-per-pack tax. A month ago King ruled the tax was unconstitutional, saying it violated a 1947 state law that outlawed Jefferson County cities collecting a tobacco tax on their own.

The ruling could mean more than a quarter of a million dollars for Cooper Green Hospital.

Since King’s order two weeks ago to pay back the money to the circuit clerk, only Trussville has yet complied.

This whole imbroglio is the result of the Amendment One tax package voted down October 1 of last year, which would have raised state taxes on a pack of cigarettes from 16.5 cents to 31 cents, and would have barred local municipalities from adding anything more. Seven cities here in Jefferson County decided they might better go ahead and jump on the bandwagon in case the amendment was passed, because, you know, it's free money.

On July 19 of this year, in a lawsuit brought by State Senator E.B. McClain who was representing the Alabama Wholesale Distributors Association, the judge ruled this tax was unconstitutional, and the money had to be given back.

Fine. But the problem was how to get it back to the people who paid it. Plaintiffs noted that it wouldn't be fair to let those evil, venal municipalities benefit from their illegal and unconscionable behavior by actually getting to keep the money in their towns.

Again, fine.

BUT, who SHOULD get the money? For some reason, it was determined that while it might be horrible for the money to stay close to where it was raised and possibly do some good for the citizens who got bilked out of it, it was fine and dandy to go spend it on other public entities. I've had my pocket picked, and the nice policeman found it, and rather than give it back to me, it all goes into the coffee and doughnuts fund? Sorry--it's a shakedown.

Especially egregious is this idea that somehow Bessemer schools should get a chunk of the money. Why?! I mean, just because Senator McClain's district happens to include Bessemer, should THAT school system be singled out for preferential treatment? And what's this deal with giving a THIRD of the loot to the plaintiffs? Again, one of them being AN ELECTED OFFICIAL representing a district that includes ONE OF THE DEFENDANT cities? You're going to sit there and tell me it's wicked for these cities to benefit from their ill-gotten gain, yet it's perfectly alright for it to be distributed like this?! Please.

Something stinks, and it ain't second hand smoke.

If there was really a serious intent to fairly distribute the money back to the people who paid it, the best solution would be for the municipalities involved to be ordered to give a 10 cent per pack rebate for each pack sold during a period of time equal to the time that they collected the tax in the first place, up to the amount they collected. If that limit is reached before the entire time has expired, the debt is cleared. If that amount isn't reached in the alloted time, the difference between what was collected and what was rebated would be granted equally to all schools within that muncipality.


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