Pledges for the coming new year
Rep. Ronald Grantland, Guest Columnist
The last few days of the year are a time of reflection and preparation. As we look back on the year that has passed, we take pride in our accomplishments and the obstacles that we have overcome. As we look to the future, we prepare for the impending challenges, hoping that the triumphs and mistakes of the past can help us plan for the year ahead.
2006 was a productive year for the Alabama House of Representatives.
We unanimously passed a tax cut for working families. Under the old system, the less you made, the more you paid, but that is no longer the case. The new plan provided relief to those paying the heaviest burden, while making sure earmarked dollars get to the classroom. It raised the threshold when income taxes are collected by almost $8,000 and raised the deduction for children by $200. The plan also provided immediate and guaranteed relief for most Alabama families, and especially working parents making under $20,000. For example, a family of four making $18,000 a year will see a $340 tax cut in 2007.
We passed a record $6.2 billion Education Budget that improved funding in several critical areas such as math and science programs, special education and physical education. School infrastructure will be stronger, too, with a drastic funding increase for transportation, nurses, and supplies. Most importantly, the funding was increased without jeopardizing the economic safety of our schools in the future.
We also helped families stretch their back-to-school dollar. The Legislature recognized that adequate school supplies are instrumental in helping a child learn, and that many parents across our state need help purchasing these pricey items. In response, the House passed a bill creating a sales tax holiday exempting certain items from the state sales tax during the first full weekend of August. And we did it without taking a dime out of the classroom.
Up until this year,Alabama’s school year wasn’t keeping up with the rest of the nation. Our public school calendar consisted of 175 instructional days, five days below what is offered elsewhere. Many of our sister states such as Georgia,Mississippi,Tennessee, and Florida all have 180-day school years, and now Alabama does as well.
Combine these feats with an unemployment average of under 4 percent, an economic development diversification like never before, the largest road and bridge reparation in the history of the state, a tourism industry which has successfully rebounded from a string of natural disasters, and an increase in test scores and decrease in drop out rates, and Alabama had a pretty productive year in 2006.
However, each year brings new challenges and 2007 will be no different.
There are new challenges emerging every day such as stopping illegal immigration by requiring foreign workers to possess a work permit from the state that certifies that they are here legally; strengthening the security of our ports; reducing Alabama’s dependency on foreign oil by creating tax incentives for companies to invest in alternative energy; and toughening our child protection laws to shield our children from those use the Internet to prey on the innocent.
We must continue to adequately fund our public schools, which are vital to the future of our state. We must also continue make our government as accountable and transparent as possible. Recently, huge strides have been made to make state government more open. It is imperative that we continue to address these issues in order to best serve the people of this state.
As we begin the new year, I look forward to making sure that our district and our state continue to head in the right direction, and hope that 2007 proves to be fruitful and successful for Alabama. Have a safe and happy new year.