Tax reform: “Do Better”

Center’s tax policy book pushes for modernization of tax code

State Scorecards

You can check how your state is doing in implementing the progressive tax modernization ideas by clicking on scorecards below:

AL | AR | FL | GA | KY |
LA | MS | NC | SC | TN | VA

Download chapters for free 

You can read the ideas from Doing Better by downloading individual PDFs or you can buy the book:


JUNE 23, 2006 — In this new book of ideas offered by the Center for a Better South, we argue it is incumbent for lawmakers across the South to revisit their state tax codes in a holistic manner to bring our tax systems into the 21st century.

All components — the income tax, sales tax, property tax and others — should be thoroughly examined and modernized to improve and ensure the fairness, adequacy and integrity of our tax systems. In other words, lawmakers can truly represent people across the South by restructuring state tax codes to make them more representative of today’s complex and rapidly changing economy.

cover_loresDoing Better: Progressive Tax Reform for the American South, written by Sarah Beth Coffey with Alan Essig, is the first of a Better South series that will examine tax and budget issues in the Southern states. The 11 ideas presented in this discussion are an introduction to progressive tax reform that can lead us to a truly better South.

From the Introduction:

“Nobody likes taxes. But taxes get a bad rap. Like them or not, taxes are not something that should be vilified because of their very nature. Instead, people might consider looking at them in another light – – as the necessary price we pay to keep our democracy alive.

“Taxes are the price of our freedom.  Imagine what we wouldn’t have if taxes didn’t fuel government programs
and services.  We might not have good roads and bridges. We wouldn’t  have a system of public education. We wouldn’t have an  efficient system to protect our borders (soldiers), communities (police) and homes (firefighters).

“In fact, when you think about the quality of life throughout the country and American South, we wouldn’t have a lot of the benefits of civilized society if taxes weren’t there to pay for public services and invest in the common good.”  Read more from the Introduction.

What people are saying about the book

Across the South, editorial writers and opinion leaders have great things to say about the Center’s progressive tax reform book:

Dr. Marty Wiseman of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University, in an 8/6 column by Sid Salter in the Jackson (MS) Clarion Ledger:

“This new study is valuable in that I think not only Mississippi needs to look at substantial tax reforms, but most other Southern states as well are looking for ways to shift the burden from the poorest to those more able to pay.”

Jackson (MS) Clarion Ledger, 8/6/06

“Lawmakers should consider these tax reforms as a basis for bringing the state’s tax structure into the modern era and promoting a progressive tax system.”

Prof. Hardy Jackson in the Anniston (AL) Star, 7/30/06

“If done right, this [eliminating sales tax exemptions] would give states additional and much-needed revenue. It would simplify the tax code and make it less costly to enforce. And it would enable the Legislature to pass a sales tax
cut that would help citizens far more than special-interest exemptions have. But can it be done? And should it be done?
That is something for “thinking leaders” to think about.”

Nick Charalambous, Anderson (SC) Independent-Mail, 7/28/06:

“Rethinking the idea of tax relief based on age alone is one of the top-10 ideas suggested by the Charleston-based Center for a Better South to make the tax ystem fairer.”

Dr. Randy Brinson, chairman of Redeem the Vote in the Mobile (AL) Press-Register, 7/16/06:

“Furthermore, state income tax credits could be used to further their education, similar to the prepaid college tuition program, or used to purchase private insurance or health savings accounts. The idea would be to move low-income workers into better jobs and ensure better health for them and their families.”

Story in the Augusta (GA) Chronicle, 7/10/06:

“Now, some lawmakers and think tanks are looking at scrapping the exemptions, or at least some of them, in hopes of advancing other goals. The Center for a Better South would like to see the exemptions pitched overboard as part of a plan for creating what the organization says would be a fairer tax structure.

“Some Republicans are taking a look at the exemptions as part of broader tax-reform efforts that could eventually include tax relief in other areas balanced out by repealing some of the exemptions.”

Charlotte (NC) Observer, 7/5/06

“The Center for a Better South, a nonpartisan think tank based in Charleston, S.C., concluded that our state’s tax system ranked (alongside Virginia’s) as the best in the South. Alas, that’s like tying for first in a 100-yard-dash for slugs…. If our tax system were a car, we’d have traded it in long ago. To keep depending on it is costly and irresponsible.”

Natchez (MS) Democrat, 7/5/06

“Much of what the study proposes as necessary changes do make a little sense … OK, so even some stranger from South Carolina can point out the obvious holes in the system. The real challenge is in making the old, decrepit system change for the better. Only the Legislature – prodded along by taxpayers such as you – can do that.”

The Northeast Daily Mississippi Journal, 6/30/06

“Tax issues always are complex, and they are controversial from the start of discussions. Mississippi would do itself a favor – ultimately serving all citizens – in reexamining tax policies with the goal of maximizing fairness.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *