Is progressive state tax reform "class warfare?" Alabama Representative Mac Gipson thinks so.  House Bill 1 is a revenue-neutral "tax shift" that would eliminate the state grocery tax and fully pay for it by paring back an income tax giveaway for the best-off taxpayers.  As House members prepared last week for a floor debate over HB 1, Gipson sputtered, "the whole bill is a redistribution of wealth."

In response to this claim, an ITEP report released earlier this week shows that in fact, the Alabama tax system does redistribute income -- but in exactly the opposite way from what Gipson appears to believe. A regressive tax system actually redistributes income from the poor to the rich -- and Alabama's tax system is one of the most egregious examples of this "Robin Hood in reverse" approach to taxation.
 
The ITEP report shows that the best-off Alabamians enjoy 19.6 percent of statewide income -- but only pay 11.5 percent of the Alabama taxes falling on Alabamians. Conversely, the poorest 80 percent of Alabamians earned 41 percent of statewide income -- but paid 54 percent of Alabama taxes.
 
The result? A tax system that actively shifts wealth away from low- and middle-income families to the best off. The top 1 percent of Alabamians enjoy 19.6 percent of income before taxes -- and 20.2 percent of the income after taxes. By contrast, the middle 20 percent of Alabamans have 11.4 percent of statewide income before tax, and 11.1 percent of the income after tax.
 
The tax shift proposed in HB 1 has been seen before in Alabama: Rep. John Knight has annually sponsored a similar bill for much of the past decade. And Alabama media outlets, laudably, are now familiar enough with the proposal to understand that it would be a major step forward for the state. The state's largest newspaper, the Birmingham News, editorialized strongly in favor of the bill on Thursday, and the second-largest state paper had a virtually identical view.

Unfortunately, editorial boards can't vote on the floor of the House: while more house members voted for it than against it, the 54-to-42 vote was not enough to achieve the three-fifths majority needed for passage, likely signaling the end of the road for progressive tax reform legislation in Alabama this year.

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