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Poll: Most Alabamians support plan to untax groceries, protect funding for public schools

Nearly three in five Alabamians, including 56.1 percent of Republican voters, support legislation that would remove the state sales tax on groceries.

(STOCK)

Nearly three in five Alabamians (59.3 percent), including 56.1 percent of Republican voters, support legislation that would remove the state sales tax on groceries without cutting education funding, according to a new poll commissioned by Alabama Arise. Only 25.3 percent of respondents opposed the plan, with another 15.5 percent saying they were unsure or did not take a position.

The poll shows strong public support for untaxing groceries in a responsible way, Alabama Arise executive director Robyn Hyden said.

“The state grocery tax increases hunger rates and drives struggling Alabamians deeper into poverty,” Hyden said. “Legislators have a clear path to untax groceries without cutting a dime of funding for public schools. They should act now to seize this opportunity to improve life for families across our state.”

Arise unveiled the poll results Tuesday during a member rally at the State House in Montgomery. Dozens of Arise supporters gathered to show their support for efforts to eliminate the state sales tax on groceries.

Alabama is one of only three states, along with Mississippi and South Dakota, with no tax break on groceries. And Alabama is one of only two states, along with Iowa, to allow a full state income tax deduction for federal income tax (FIT) payments. Because wealthy people pay more in federal income taxes on average, the state’s FIT deduction overwhelmingly benefits rich households.

Both sales tax revenue and individual income tax revenue go to the Education Trust Fund. By capping the FIT deduction, Alabama could afford to end the state sales tax on groceries while protecting school funding. Three bills this year would do that: SB43 by Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre; HB173 by Rep. Mike Holmes, R-Wetumpka; and a forthcoming bill by Rep. Penni McClammy, D-Montgomery. McClammy’s bill also would remove the state sales tax from over-the-counter medicines.

Under SB43 and HB173, the FIT deduction cap for Alabamians who file as single, head of household or married filing separately would be $4,000 annually. For married couples filing jointly, the limit would be $8,000 a year. Under McClammy’s bill, those annual caps would be $3,500 and $7,000, respectively.

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