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Lawmakers oppose JeffCo tax

Local lawmakers oppose a Jefferson County occupational tax, which is a 0.45-percent tax on wages for those who work in the county. They say it’s unfair to the 2,552 Chilton County residents who commute to Jefferson County each day.

On Aug. 14, Gov. Bob Riley signed into law the new tax, which replaced a 0.5-percent tax collected from non-licensed wage earners since 1987.

“I thought the occupational tax was unfair to the people of my district who work in Jefferson County,” said Sen. Hank Erwin, who represents Alabama Senate District 14. “All we’re doing is putting a Band-Aid on the problem. The people who pay that tax don’t even get to vote on it, and that’s taxation without representation.”

Erwin said he voted against the bill, House Bill 13, and spoke on the Senate floor against the measure.

He also supported stronger wording in an amendment to the bill that, according to Erwin, would have phased the tax out if voted down by popular referendum in 2012.

Now, he says, the amendment’s language is too vague.

“There’s no guarantee that the tax will ever go away,” Erwin said.

Rep. Jimmy Martin tried to author an amendment that would have excluded people in areas outside Jefferson County from paying the tax, but the amendment failed.

Martin said he didn’t vote in favor or against the tax for one reason.

“Several representatives of Jefferson County asked me to stay out of it, and I did, but I did let them know that a large part of the occupational tax paid to Jefferson County was from outside Jefferson County.”

An accountability bill supported by Martin does require Jefferson County to search for and hire a county manager.

The bill originally would have required them to hire a comptroller, one who supervises accounting and financial reporting, but the Senate amended it to not include a comptroller.

“I don’t like it,” Martin said.