MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The House could soon take up a bill that would require the legislature to vote on occupational taxes.
The House County Municipal Committee passed HB147 with an 8-3 vote on Thursday.
Rep. Chris Sell told the committee this legislation would provide an extra layer of protection for workers who would pay the occupational tax. He argued employees already spend money in the cities where they work and contribute to the local tax base.
“Think about these people - think about a single mother that makes $40,000 a year,” stated Sell. “That’s Christmas for one or two of her children. This is more than affecting a few people, this affects everyone.”
The Montgomery City Council is in discussions about an occupational tax that would impact everyone who works in the city, including Montgomery residents. If this bill passes, it would be effective before the council could vote.
Montgomery City Council President Charles Jinright protested the bill, he told the committee it would take away their ability to fund and run local government. Jinright noted Montgomery is 18th in state tax revenue.
“We don’t know if we need this [tax] today,” said Jinright. “But we want that option in the future. With us being as low as we are, this could help us along the line.”
Jinright added that while local employees contribute to sales taxes, the city puts up money to bring in new jobs - not just in Montgomery but in surrounding areas as well.
Greg Cochran, deputy director of the Alabama League of Municipalities, encouraged the committee to vote down this measure. Cochran says the issue is bigger than Montgomery, asking lawmakers to consider cities and towns that only have tier manufacturing jobs and no retail tax base. Those governments would be hard-pressed to shore up additional revenue outside an occupational tax.
“If you have a problem with one city, don’t take a sledgehammer to an issue that’s a local issue,” Cochran said.
Advocates argued that it doesn’t limit local governments, they would simply have to go through an extra channel. Opponents disagreed, stating the legislature is only in session once a year and there’s guarantee their bill wouldn’t get buried under other pressing statewide issues.
No word on when the House will take up the issue.