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If the point of a no new taxes pledge is to keep government small, why would a governor who took the pledge support any new revenue? Yes, a fee is charged only on a service being used, such as issuing documents, making inspections or offering professional licenses. But the fee is essentially a tax that helps pay for the service. Raising that fee is raising the tax on the service.

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Robert Bentley, is looking for fee increases in state government. (The Huntsville Time/Glenn Baeske)

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Nor is the idea floated last week by Bentley's finance director, Marquita Davis, to raise fees for state services. Davis said she emailed state agency heads on Monday, seeking suggestions for fees, especially those that haven't been changed in 20 years or more, as well as any "inventive and innovative" ideas that will help state government.

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The second reaction: Enough with this nonsense of raising fees instead of taxes.

So says Black Prada Shoes the Taxpayer Protection Pledge peddled by Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform Louis Vuitton Sneaker Mens

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and signed by the governor.

"It sounds like she's requesting a tax increase, in violation of what the governor has previously stated, that he would veto any tax increase that the Legislature passed," Senate Majority Leader Jabo Waggoner, who chairs the agenda setting Rules Committee, told The News' David White.

The obvious place to start would be for Bentley to embrace state Rep. John Knight's bill that would remove the 4 percent state sales tax from groceries and over the counter medicine. Knight for a decade has proposed some version of the bill, which would lift the state sales tax (or shall we call it a sales fee?) and pay for the lost revenue of about $326 million by stopping the deduction for federal income taxes from taxable state income. Doing that would bring in about $485 million a year, adding $159 million a year to the Education Trust Fund. That wouldn't solve the General Fund's problems, but the extra money in the ETF might allow Bentley to persuade lawmakers to shift some General Fund costs to the ETF.

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What Knight proposes isn't extraordinary. Only Alabama and Thank God for Mississippi among states with sales taxes fully tax groceries. Every other state either doesn't charge state sales tax on food, taxes at a lower rate or offers an income tax credit to Lacoste Carnaby Evo Trainers

Robert Bentley's Taxpayer Protection Pledge isn't leadership

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"Nothing is off the table, but tax increases," she told The Associated Press.

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The first reaction: State government is in such dire shape that any fee increases probably are a good idea if there are not going to be any tax increases.

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poor families to help offset the sales taxes they pay on food. And only Alabama, Iowa and Louisiana offer the full federal income tax deduction on state income taxes.

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A fee increase has exactly the same effect a tax increase does: It raises revenue for government.

Plain and simple, a fee increase is a tax increase. That's not just The Birmingham News' editorial board saying it.

If the governor were interested in leading rather than political pandering, he would propose a real tax increase with the twin goals of raising revenue for state government and righting an immoral, upside down Alabama tax system.

Spending in next year's education budget is capped at $5.48 billion, a far cry from the $6.7 billion budgeted for K 12 schools, colleges and universities in the 2008 fiscal year before the bottom dropped out of the economy. General Fund revenues are expected to be $1.36 billion in the 2013 fiscal year, a drop of $366 million, or 21 percent, after Bentley ordered a 10.6 percent cut in this year's $1.92 billion budget.

thing to sign such a pledge in a high tax state like Connecticut, New York or Massachusetts. It's quite another to sign the pledge in Alabama, which ranks dead last among states in combined state and local taxes collected per person. Especially when those tax collections have yet to recover from the Great Recession.

Vowing not to increase taxes in Alabama at a time like this is nothing but demagoguing to voters. It is hardly leadership.

"I, Robert Bentley, pledge to the taxpayers of the state of Alabama, that I will oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes."

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