Grocery tax up for debate again

Published 10:36 pm Friday, January 23, 2009

The issue of whether or not to repeal Alabama’s 4-cent sales tax on groceries is still alive among state lawmakers.

One problem, however, is that those who support getting rid of the tax do not necessarily agree on how it should be done.

Rep. Jimmy Martin voted in favor of the measure in the past, but did not speak very favorably about it yesterday.

“I’m not sure [repealing the tax] is a good thing for taxpayers,” Martin said. “It’s the only fair tax.”

Martin thinks such a bill would likely remove the federal exemption on state income tax, as a way of replacing the lost revenue.

“The working man would actually be paying for the sales tax,” he said. “You’re going to have to make up the difference somewhere.”

An alternative to that plan supported by Republicans and some Democrats would phase out grocery sales tax at 1-percent increments each year in which revenue for public education grows by 3 percent or more.

Education is another reason Martin is not quite ready to bid the state’s grocery sales tax adieu. One example he gives is Hispanics who do not pay taxes but are required to pay sales tax.

“This would be a way for them to assist in paying for their education,” he said.

Last year, the plan sponsored by Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, passed the House but fell by one vote in the Senate. Friction in the Senate this year makes it hard to say whether or not the bill would pass, Martin said.

The 2009 Regular Session begins Feb. 3.