By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMRY–Jefferson County’s request for a massive tax increase was blocked in the Alabama House of Representatives in an 18 to 12 vote to remove the vote from the calendar. The debate on the bill was unusually emotional and numerous legislators spoke in favor of or in opposition to the massive tax increase.
Almost as soon as the House session began, Representative Arthur Payne (R) from Trussville asked that the House remove SB567 from the Special Order Calendar. Rep. Payne said, “This is a local bill that is being pushed around our delegation because it had no chance of passing in the delegation because the people are against it.”
Rep. John Rogers (D) from Birmingham said that there are a lot of good bills that deserve passage. “I am asking you to remove SB567” from the calendar. Rep. Rogers said that if it is not removed the legislators opposed to Jefferson County’s occupation tax will “do whatever we have to do” to keep the bill from coming to the floor including reading bills and filibustering everything. “If you have got any bills you want to pass you will remove it from the calendar.” “This bill would clog up the house.” “We need to move along with the calendar.” “This bill will tax Jefferson County to death.”
Rep. Jim McClendon (R) from Springville said, “This is a tax: a tax on the people outside of the county as well as within.” “Please do not use my voters to pay for your problems.” Rep. McClendon said that the bill’s supporters did not have the votes to pass the measure so it should not be left on the calendar and force opponents to filibuster the whole calendar.
Rep. Jeremy Oden (R) from Vinemont said, “This area is an issue of what is right and what is wrong. An occupational tax is wrong.” Oden vowed to will oppose an occupation tax in any county. “An occupation tax anywhere in the state is unconstitutional.” Rep Oden blamed Jefferson County leaders for creating this mess. “We need to remove this from the calendar and move on.” Rep. Todd (D) from Birmingham said, “I am asking you to please give us a chance to have a dialogue.” “I want us to have a discussion.”
Rep. Merika Coleman (D) from Midfield accused the opponents of the tax increase proposal of using bully tactics. She said that she wants to fully fund Cooper Green Hospital and see Jefferson County workers go back to work. “If the vote fails, the vote fails.” “Leave the bill on the calendar.”
The bill introduced in the Alabama Senate by Senator Jabo Waggoner would have given Jefferson County the power to raise occupation, sales, gas, and use taxes on people who work or do business in Jefferson County. The money would have been used to prevent further cuts in the scope and size of Jefferson County Government and would allow the Jefferson County Government to resume making regular payments on the $4.2 billion that they borrowed from banks to issue bonds.
Rep. Payne said, “This bill puts 200 million worth of taxes on the people. We got people who are really hurting in Jefferson County. We can’t put this on the people.” “The Jefferson County delegation is able to take care of our own business.”
Rep. Demetrius Newton (D) Birmingham said, “I am for this bill. Many of my colleagues are in favor of this bill. A lot of people are suffering but a lot more of them are suffering from lack of employment and services that the County would normally provide.” “Our county is drowning in debt and we need to save it.”
Rep. John Rogers (D) from Birmingham said, “There is a large group opposing SB567.” Republicans and Democrats are both opposed to this bill.” Rep. Rogers threatened to filibuster to prevent the tax increase from coming up to a vote. If y’all want to tie this House up go ahead.” “There is a large group opposing SB567.”
Rep. Demetrious Newton (D) said, “The current bill is the best that we have before us.” ‘We just need and up or down vote.” He called opponents of the tax increase a “generation of vipers.”
Rep. Rod Scott (D) from Fairfield said, “Ladies and gentlemen of the House, you all are having a conversation among yourself about what to do about Jefferson County…..this is one of the most important votes you will ever have in this body.” Rep. Scott said that the people in this body do not understand the importance of what I am saying. “This body will ultimately have the responsibility of what happens to Jefferson County.”
Rep Rogers said, “The people….they don’t want this bill. I go all over the county and I talk to a lot of people and take calls on the radio and the people don’t want this.” “The bill is a very bad bill.” Rep. Rogers said, “This is a bill that is going to tax my county to death.” “There is a group of us in the House who are prepared to filibuster.” Rep. Rogers told the House, “I am not coming to tax your county. Don’t tax my county.” “This bill is cruel and humane.”
Rep. Payne said, “Please join with us today and take this tax off.” “I am going to ask the Governor not to include Jefferson County on the Special Session order.” “The people of Jefferson County would never vote for this bill. I will have every bill read today if we don’t take this off the calendar.”
Rep. Rod Scott (D) from Fairfield said, “The political reality is that Jefferson County does not have the authority to deal with the bankruptcy.” “Jefferson County needs an occupation tax to solve their financial crisis. This occupational tax is only $450 on a $100,000 worth of income.” Rep. Scott said that was a fair tax. He accused legislators from outside of the county of sabotaging his effort to pass an occupation tax on the working people of Jefferson County. “We are going to have to deal with the Jefferson County problem.” “If Jefferson County goes bankrupt (we are already bankrupt) it will raise interest rates all over Alabama.”
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley may call a special session to deal with the Jefferson County situation if the legislators came to some sort of an agreement. The Jefferson County Commission may need to prepare plans for decreasing its operating budget going forward.