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Birmingham News - "Republican House Members Push Love Tax Cuts"

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Location: Montgomery, AL

Birmingham News - "Republican House Members Push Love Tax Cuts"

Republicans in the state House of Representatives said Thursday that they will try again to pass bills to cut income taxes and limit the frequency of property tax reappraisals, which together could save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

``Once again, Republicans will push for tax relief for families and businesses," said Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, who leads the Republican House caucus. Democrats outnumber Republicans 61-43 in the House, where there is one vacant seat.

The tax-cut plans are part of the caucus' priority agenda of 11 bills, many of which Republicans tried and failed to pass last year.

One of the bills would save taxpayers $165 million a year in personal income taxes by raising personal exemptions, dependent exemptions and standard deductions. Personal income taxes flow to the Education Trust Fund for public schools and colleges, so the money saved by individuals would not go to schools.

The tax cut would be phased in over five years. The first-year reduction would be $16.9 million, said Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, the plan's sponsor.

A family of four now starts paying state income taxes at an annual income of $12,600. Love's bill would raise that threshold to $15,000.

Love proposed a similar bill last year and it went nowhere, after some lawmakers said they didn't want to see slower growth in tax collections for education.

But Hubbard praised the proposed tax cut. ``It's been proven time and time again, tax cuts stimulate the economy," he said.

Some of the other bills in the GOP House agenda would:

Save taxpayers, and cost the trust fund, $65 million a year in individual and corporate income taxes by letting small businesses, each employing less than 25 people, and their employees double the income-tax deductions they get for paying employees' health insurance premiums. The tax cut would be phased in over five years. The first-year reduction would be about $8 million, said Love, who is also sponsoring this bill.

Let a person with a 401(k) or similar defined-contribution retirement plan make qualified withdrawals of as much as $10,000 a year without paying state income taxes on the money. A similar bill last year would have saved taxpayers, and cost the trust fund, as much as $42 million a year. Rep. Greg Canfield, R-Vestavia Hills, is the sponsor this year.

Ban annual reappraisals of property and allow reappraisals no more than once every four years. A similar bill last year was opposed by the Alabama Education Association teachers' lobby, county commissions and other groups concerned that it would lower the growth in property tax collections by public schools, local governments and state government.

The bill could save money for homeowners whose home values are rising. It also could collect more money from homeowners in times of declining property values. Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, is the bill's sponsor.

Require immigrants to provide proof of legal residency before receiving some state benefits, such as in-state tuition at colleges. The state under federal law cannot deny some benefits, such as public schooling and emergency health care, to illegal immigrants. Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, is the sponsor.

Require electronic verification of liability insurance at the time of automobile registration and allow for the impoundment of vehicles not properly covered by liability insurance. Hubbard is the sponsor.

Some of the other bills in the agenda would ban transfers of money between political action committees and ban ``pass-through pork" in state budgets, the practice of appropriating money to an agency with the understanding that a legislator would call later to dictate how to spend the money.

Hubbard called on the Democrats who lead the House to allow fair debate on the Republicans' bills.

``We don't set the agenda. We're totally at the mercy of the Democrat leadership," Hubbard said. ``We'll see if they're inclined to do something that's positive for the people of the state."

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