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$30, $10, $50, and $60 for the several classes. The service pension, you would find, would decrease these amounts with any possible appropriation the Treasury could stand.
Four years ago a bill came to me providing for an appropriation of $100,000.00 additional to the one mill tax, for each of four years. I offered an amendment, as I had a right to do, under the law, reducing the amount to $50,000.00 each of four years, providing, however, that this sum would be increased to $150,000.00 for each of the last two years, if it appeared to the Governor that the Treasury could stand the additional amount. This amendment was accepted and the bill became a law. The veterans got the $100,000.00 orig. inally provided in the four years, I authorized the Auditor to draw his warrant in October, 1905, and again in October, 1906, for the additional hundred thousand.
My apprehension of a possible treasury balance then grew out of the reduction by one mill of the State tax, which reduction amounted yearly to about $350.000.00. It will be recalled, too, that at that particular time the income from the convict department under the departure I caused to be made, was not a certain amount. The vast increase from this source which has come to the treasury since that time, was then in the future. My fears, ? think, were not unreasonble.
In conclusion of this subject, you will allow me, with as much emphasis as I can command, to say that no needy or indigent old soldier ought to suffer for any of the necessaries of life as long as the State can prevent it.
You provided four years ago for a home for old sol. diers, which home was largely donated by that great lover of old soldiers, Jefferson M. Falkner, and is known as the “Falkner Home.” You appropriated $120.00 a year for each inmate. Under the act I appointed the following trustees of the Home:
State at Large: J. M. Falkner, W. D. Westcott and C. L. Ruth; and the following, one from each Congressional District: A. C. Danner, J. B. Stanley, S. T. Frazer, H. C. Reynolds, W. A. Handley, A. Y. Glover, L. B. Stone, Sam'l. Blackwell and W. C. Ward. They are all clever business men. I think you will not find a wiser or more efficient body of men on any board than these.
The appropriation has been found to be entirely insufficient to care for it at all. There are nearly seventy people in the Home and the appropriation is $10.00 for each per month. A competent Commandant, with an assistant or two, cooks, helpers and nurses, particularly nurses, take in wages one half of the appropriation. You will consider of course that nearly every one of these old men if not absolutely, is partially helpless and needs much attention. There is hardly $5.00 a month for each, to feed and clothe them. The Board has found it impossible to get along on the allowance and they have gotten behind. The members above named signed with me a noto for $2,750.00, which I will ask you to provide for. This money had to be borrowed, the old veterans starved, or the Home closed. If you should decide to keep it open further you will necessarily be compelled to greatly increase the per capita appropriation. It certainly ought not to be run as a poor house.
OUR ASSESSMENT LAWS.
Real and personal property, when aggregated, does not bear taxes on 30 per cent of its real value. Personal property escapes almost entirely unless it is in shares in a corporation. It is almost unrepresented in the tax returns. Real property in many counties is not itself given in for an amount above one-third of its value, and there are counties where 20 per cent. on real estate is considered a most liberal estimate. Every effort has been put forth by the Auditor to get personal property on the list and to have real property assessed at a reasonable per cent. of its value. The Back Tax Commissioner's office has been constantly in touch with the Allditor in this fight for a proper showing with what, I consider, a pitiful result. The assessment for the year 1900 amounted to $266,000,000.00, and for the year 1906 to $384,000,000.00, an increase unequalled at any time in the history of the State. A billion dollars would, however, hardly be a fair assessment. We are sharing in a very great prosperity all over the country. Our immediate sister states, Georgia and Mississippi, have increased their assessments in a larger degree, which I assume is the result of superior tax laws and not the result of really increased values.
BACK TAX LAW.
The Tax Commission Law is effective in increasing the assessment against a few people in an average of one-half of the counties. It does not reach one person in one hundred whose property deserves to be raised. In one half of the counties it is entirely ineffective with any exec!ltion this administration could give it; and with any execution, indeed, it ever had at any time since the passage of the act. The whole tax system should be railically changed. Personal property, except such
that represented by corporation shares, such as pay a record tax, as I have said, practically bears no part of the tax burden. At your last session you provided for the taxation of mortgages at the small rate of 15 cents a hundred. This departure has not only been effective in raising a considerable revenue, $75,667.21 in 1906 for the State alone, but it suggests an extension along the same line. I am of the opinion that ultimately the law must be so changed as to exclude altogether for consideration all such personal property as may be entirely hidden from the assessor, except such as the law requires court or state records to disclose. I am inclined to believe that the principle of a mortgage tax might profitably and fairly be extended.
The Commission law has been more effective in securing unpaid licenses than in raising valuations or discovering escapes. It seems that the law should provide for a greater diligence on the part of judges of probate in the collection of licenses. Now it requires that the judge of probate shall report the list of licenses collected to the grand jury. Some of the judges content themselves with receipting for licenses when handed them or, perhaps, notifying parties that they are due such license. They do not count it as a part of their duty to enforce collection. Their indifference, on the whole, has probably in creased since the passage of the back tax law. It would be feasible, it seems, to add to the duty of the probate judge a requirement that he exhaust whatever remedy the law is made to give him to the end that those who might otherwise, may not escape such tax.
Curious to know what has been done I have gone over the returns for four years covering the years of 1898, 1899, and those of 1905 and 1906. The law was established in 1896. I found that in 1898 in thirty-one counties there was either no back tax commissioner, or if there was such an officer he made no raises and furnished no Escapes. In 1899 twenty four counties had no raises and reported no escapes. There were six other counties of the sixty-seven in which the tax from escapes and raises from the work of the Commissioner amounted to less than $30.00 in general state and special tax,
For the past year I find there have been no raises and escapes from the Commissioner in 35 counties. For 1905 there was no raises or escapes in 28 counties. It will, I am sure, appear to you at once that as at present written in the books the law is only effective against a few of the parties it ought to reach. You will agree with me that it is most vndemocratic to make fish of one and fowl of another. In some of the counties of the State the law has never operated for any one of the ten years which it has been on the books.
Our assessment laws are not operating to the State's advantage. Our neighbors on either side of us are better equipped. Their increase in assessment the past year or two has been greater than ours and I am sure the real valuation of property in Alabama has far outgrown either of them.
The railroads were assessed by the Board charged with that duty last March for the total sum of $58,426,072.00, an increase in the six years of this administration of $10,227,834. This amount is far below their value, though I think it incontestable that it is a higher valuation than that set upon property generally in this State by owners and assessors. I may go further and say that a greater value is placed upon railroad property in this assessment than is placed on personal and real property in any county in the State.
I think that the State can fairly provide for a reasonable Inheritance Tax.
The law on the statute books has been ineffective to suppress vagrancy. No lines that you may write will likely be entirely satisfactory. That will not hinder you from undertaking a solution of this most serious question. A more efficient vagrancy law should be passed or the present one amended. The Supreme Court has held that the burden is upon the State to prove that the defendant has no property or means to support hinı. Under this ruling of the court the State is required io prove a negative, which it cannot do. The burden of proof should be upon the defendant charged with vagrancy to establish the nature, kind and amount of property, if any, he has from which he gains a support.
DEPARTMENT OF ARCHIVES AND HISTORY.
It is gratifying to me to be able to make special men. tion of the continued growth of the Department of Archives and History. Although the newest of our State Departments, it has reached an enviable position of dignity and influence. Under the tireless zeal and intel