The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

April 26, 2013

Alabama grocery tax repeal likely dead again

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The effort to remove the Alabama sales tax from groceries is likely dead for another year.

A Republican legislator tried one approach and a Democratic legislator tried another, but neither got very far in the 2013 session.

Republican Sen. Gerald Dial of Lineville persuaded a Senate committee to approve his bill to phase out the 4 percent state tax, but he said it is unlikely he can pass it with only five meeting days remaining in the legislative session.

A bill by Democratic Rep. John Knight of Montgomery never even got considered by a House committee.

"We don't see action coming in the few remaining days," said Jim Carnes, communication director of Alabama Arise, an organization representing Alabama's poor.

Legislators have been trying to figure out a way to remove the sales tax on groceries for more than a decade, but no one has succeeded because the Legislature has never agreed on how to replace the lost revenue. Replacing the revenue is a priority because sales taxes are a major source of funding for public schools.

Dial's bill would reduce the state sales tax on groceries by 1 cent on the dollar each year for four years. To make up the lost revenue, he would increase the state sales tax on other purchases by one-quarter cent per dollar for each year for four years. By the end of four years, consumers would pay no state tax on groceries and 5 percent on other purchases. State and local sales taxes would remain on groceries.

Dial said he doesn't consider his bill a tax increase because people have to buy groceries, but they can cut back on other purchases, such as clothes.

Dial's bill was placed on the Senate's work agenda Thursday, but the Senate's top Republican, President Pro Tem Del Marsh of Anniston, got the Senate to delay action. "There is still work to be done," Marsh said.

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