By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, July 9, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced that he was calling the State Legislature into Special Session on July 13, to address the troubled 2016 State General Fund (SGF) budget. The Governor did not address what exactly his proposals would be for the special session call, though the Governor has previously been asking for as much as $531 million in new taxes on the people and businesses of Alabama.
That same evening Community activist Stephanie Petelos addressed the Greater Birmingham Young Republicans (GBYRs) at their previously scheduled meeting at the Sidebar Café on Birmingham’s South Side of town. Petelos warned that there is a possibility that Gov. Bentley may call for a beverage tax that is being talked a lot about in Montgomery.
Ms. Petelos said that drinks like sodas and sweet tea are products that Alabamians buy every day and there is already a state sales tax on beverage sales. If all you drink is about two sodas a day that adds up to over $200 a year per person per year.
Petelos warned that this is going to really impact local businesses like convenience stores and grocers. The group, “Stop the Alabama Beverage Tax” has started a website: stopthealabamabeveragetax.com. Petelos said, “There is a coalition being formed to mobilize people, convenience stores, and grocers that will be impacted.”
Ms. Petelos told the Alabama Political Reporter that she had no direct information from the Governor’s office that the beverage tax would be in the Governor’s call for a special session, but to this point they haven’t denied it either.
The Governor will announce what will be covered in the special session at a Friday, July 10 press conference at 10:00 am.
According to the Stop the Alabama Beverage Tax, “Politicians are talking about a new tax on beverages like soft drinks, juice drinks, bottled water, sports drinks, fountain drinks, coffee, and teas.” They do not know yet how much the proposed beverage tax is, “But even if the tax were just a penny per-ounce, a 12-pack of soft drinks would go up by 25 percent. (And some products could go up by more than 65 percent!) The point is: Taxes on beverages add up fast for the average Alabamian.”
The groups said that, “Adding a new tax on common grocery items like beverages means higher costs at the checkout counter—not to mention higher restaurant, vending machine, and concession stand costs. A tax like that would burden shoppers and businesses alike, putting many jobs at risk and doing untold damage to local businesses like neighborhood grocery stores and convenience stores. Today, it’s a tax on beverages. What will it be tomorrow?”
The group warned that if consumers let this tax pass without a fight, the next tax could be on certain types of foods.
The special session begins on Monday, July 13.
State Representative Tim Wadsworth (R-County) said on Facebook, “Governor Bentley today announced that the special legislative session will begin Monday July 13, 2015. During a special session the Governor sets the agenda and proposes bills to be addressed by the special session. The bill have to pass by a 50.1 percent margin. If individual legislators propose bills that are not called by the Governor, then it takes a 66.67 percent margin to pass. If the Governor in his special session call prohibits certain bills from being in the Special Session call and those bill are introduced by legislators, then it takes 80 percent margin to pass those bills.”
Ms. Petelos is the Chair of the Seventh Congressional District for the Young Republican Federation of Alabama.
Currently, the SGF has a hole of about $198 million that will either have to be filled with tax increases, gaming revenue, or through spending cuts.