[The Center for American Progress is co-hosting a two-day conference this week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, entitled New Strategies for Southern Progress. The conference is convening more than 200 national, state and local political leaders, policy experts, journalists and academics to rethink critical issues facing the South and chart a new progressive vision for the region. ThinkProgress Team member Jon Baskin is on the scene]
Our second panel today, “Rethinking Tax Policy,” focused on recent attempts to reimagine tax policy in several Southern states, most of which have been virtually bankrupted by economic dowturns and cuts in state aid under the Bush administration. You may not believe me, but this was an extremely interesting conversation, particularly the twin narratives of campaigns for progressive tax reform in Virginia (successful) and Alabama (unsuccessful).
Political consultant Robert “Sid” McAnnally told Alabama’s story. In 2003, Alabama Governor Bob Riley, a conservative Republican and Southern Baptist, proposed a $1.2 billion tax package that raised taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents and businesses and cut taxes on poor families. He had the backing of the state’s corporate conservatives, who realized the state had to deal with budget shortfalls in excess of $500 million. But millions of dollars were raised by groups, including significant factions from the religious right, to oppose the bill, and the Governor’s plan was badly defeated. Read more