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Tuscaloosa Approves Sales Tax Hike

Tuscaloosa City Hall

The Tuscaloosa City Council tonight approved the so-called “Elevate Tuscaloosa” tax plan Tuesday night.

The panel voted 5 to 2 to approve the 1% increase to the city sales tax. Mayor Walt Maddox proposed the increase earlier this year to generate an additional five hundred million dollars in city income over three decades. That would fund 21 projects spanning education, infrastructure, economic development and entertainment.

The city council rejected the measure last month, but reconsidered with the caveat that the hike be tied to a bill before the state legislature that would allow Tuscaloosa to exempt groceries from the city sales tax.

APR spoke with Councilman Kip Tyner before the vote. He has consistently opposed the measure, and says a sales tax increase hurts Tuscaloosa’s most vulnerable citizens.

“We had just raised – a six percent increase on water. Which I did not vote for, but that passed. And then we had the gas tax – knowing it was coming. And then to add ten cents on the dollar, I think it’s just too much. That widens the poverty gap, to me.”

APR listeners also heard from Mayor Maddox before the vote. He agrees that a sales tax is a regressive tax, however he says municipalities don't have any other good options under Alabama's Constitution. And…

“Not having an education – that is regressive. Not being able to have a good paying job – that is regressive. Not being able to have good roads, good infrastructure – that is regressive. Not being able to have a high quality of life and compete with other great cities in our country – that is regressive.”

The tax increase is intended to fund a wide variety of projects including Pre-K expansion, workforce development scholarships, a large-capacity event venue, improvements at Tuscaloosa's airport, an expanded transit system and many others.

If the state legislature fails to pass a bill allowing Tuscaloosa to exempt groceries from the city sales tax, some council members say they are open to other options to offset the tax increase.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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