Arise Alabama, a liberal-leaning statewide non-partisan group that works to better policy for low-income individuals, chose Medicaid expansion and working to end the state grocery tax as two of its top policy priorities going into the general election season and ahead of next year’s legislative session.
More than 200 Arise members chose those priorities and several others at the group’s annual meeting on Saturday, Sept. 8, in Montgomery. The other priority issues included:
- Tax reform, including untaxing groceries and closing corporate income tax loopholes.
- Adequate funding for vital services like education, healthcare and childcare, including approval of new tax revenue to protect and expand Medicaid.
- State funding for the newly created Public Transportation Trust Fund.
- Consumer protections to limit high-interest payday loans and auto title loans in Alabama.
- Legislation to establish automatic universal voter registration in Alabama.
- Reforms to Alabama’s criminal justice debt policies, including changes related to cash bail and civil asset forfeiture.
- Reforms to Alabama’s death penalty system, including a moratorium on executions.
“Public policy barriers block the path to real opportunity and justice for far too many Alabamians,” said Alabama Arise executive director Robyn Hyden. “We’re excited to unveil our 2019 blueprint to build a more just, inclusive state and make it easier for all families to make ends meet.”
Arise said Alabama’s failure to expand Medicaid under former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act has trapped about 300,000 people in a coverage gap. That means they make too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to receive subsidies for Marketplace coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Arise argues that expanding Medicaid would save hundreds of lives, create thousands of jobs and pump hundreds of millions of dollars a year into Alabama’s economy. And, at a time when many rural hospitals are on the verge of closing, Arise says an expansion would also help keep rural hospitals and clinics open across the state.
Abolishing the state grocery tax has been an issue for Democrats for several years.
Arise called the tax “another harmful policy choice that works against Alabamians’ efforts to get ahead.”
Alabama is one of only three states that charge a full sales tax on groceries. Most have no sales tax on groceries or a reduced sales tax on groceries.
Mississippi and South Dakota are the other two states that charge full sales tax.
“The grocery tax essentially acts as a tax on survival, adding hundreds of dollars a year to the cost of a basic necessity of life,” Arise said in a statement. “The tax also is a key driver of Alabama’s upside-down tax system, which on average forces families with low and moderate incomes to pay twice as much of what they make in state and local taxes as the richest Alabamians do.”