On Thursday, state senators voted in favor of a bill that would allow the county to levy an occupational tax, one that its sponsor estimates would raise $62 million in additional revenue for the cash-strapped county. The bill is likely to come before the House this week.
Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, said he will not support the bill if it taxes those outside Jefferson County.
“I’ll vow to you and the people that there will be war over that bill,” McClendon said Friday. “They’re going to have to run over me to pass that bill and put that tax on our citizens.”
McClendon said he agrees Jefferson County needs help, but he is not in favor of taxing those outside the county to find it.
“When you put that occupational tax on somebody, you’re putting it on somebody outside your county,” McClendon said. “You’re taxing people who are outside your county.
“My argument is, we don’t do that to them. We don’t charge them to use our roads or our services or to work in St. Clair County.”
Other members of the county’s legislative delegation, who are also members of the Jefferson County delegation, have expressed opposition. Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said the tax increase is due to a lack of creative thinking on the part of others.
“This is an absolute crystal clear case of what is wrong with government,” Beason said. “You have the ability to do all the things you need to do, but they don’t want to change anything. Since a program is in place, it gets to stay, and the debate is always about not if they raise taxes, but how much taxes will they raise.”
Specifically, Beason and Rep. Dickie Drake, R-Leeds, were referring to the expense of the county-run hospital, Cooper Green.
“It’s like trying to fill up a car with a hole in the gas tank,” Drake said Friday. “We’ve got to come up with a better solution.”
Beason said his entire constituency — inside Jefferson County and outside — have expressed opposition to the taxes.
“Most of them want the problem fixed,” he said. “They are common-sense people; they believe money is being spent somewhere it’s not needed, wasted.
“I believe it in my heart, but also I believe most of my constituents feel that way also.”
Other members of the county’s house delegation — Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Rainbow City, and Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston — could not be reached for comment Friday. But McClendon said he believes they share his opposition.
“I’m pretty confident they’re all in the same place,” he said.
Contact Will Heath at firstname.lastname@example.org.