Grocery tax bill still waiting to be heard

Published 9:31 pm Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Kendra Bolling

There’s still no word yet as to whether the 4 percent grocery tax in Alabama will stay or leave.

But according to the Associated Press, the bill appears to be stalled in the House and Senate because it is lacking in votes.

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The bill supported by Democrats would offset the revenue loss by removing a tax deduction on federal income taxes paid from higher income taxpayers.

The bill has yet to reach the Senate floor in the current session, and local legislators are hopeful it will pass.

“Nothing has happened since it came out of committee,” said Sen. Wendell Mitchell (D-Luverne).

“But, I don’t think it’s stalled. It just hasn’t come up.”

Mitchell says the Legislature has many bills that are on the list.

But, as for his support, “I’m for taking the tax off the food, but not the income tax,” he said.

Troy’s local Legislator Alan Boothe was unable to be reached for comment, but had previously told The Messenger that he was not sure whether he supports the bill.

“I have not seen where this money is going to be replaced so I’m having to look through that,” Boothe said.

“We can’t afford to lose this in the tight budget time we are experiencing.”

Republicans in the Legislature oppose the plan, and earlier in the week, House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) called it the “Robin Hood” approach to tax reform.

Hubbard told the AP Republicans are opposed to removing the tax from groceries if it means raising taxes for some taxpayers.

While, the House needs, 63 votes to pass a constitutional amendment, it appears neither party has the votes to pass.

A Republican bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Beason (R-Gardendale), would take the tax off groceries gradually without replacing the revenue.

Right now, Alabama and Mississippi are the only states to levy the full state sales tax on groceries, while all the others either have no tax, reduced tax of a tax credit for low-income residents.

Even if the bill does pass, it will be left in the hands of voters, who have will have to decide if they support the constitutional amendment or not.

Local shoppers at various grocery stores had mixed feeling about supporting the bill, while even more did not know about the bill.

One local resident was in favor of the tax wholeheartedly.

“I’m for the grocery tax. I think we deserve it. Some of the people don’t think it will help, but I do,” Louis Moultry said.

Another supports one particular version of the plan, and says its a good thing since grocery prices have been on the rise for a while.

“I’m more in favor of the Republican plan. Groceries are so expensive right now. We are disenfranchised with all the taxation being thrown at us,” Patricia Waller said.

Waller, recently moved from Texas, and said she believes that anytime a tax is added to the public, regardless to what they want to use it for it usually doesn’t get used for that.

Still, one local shopper put the decision in the hands of the state legislature because she believes lawmakers will do what they please . no matter what she or other constituents may say. “They’re going to do what they want to do anyway. So, it doesn’t matter what I say,” Tisha Postell said.

But, until the legislature either passes the bill or rejects it, Alabamians will be waiting to see what happens.