So when Jefferson County’s legislative delegation brought to the legislature a proposed occupational tax, those who represent St. Clair County lined up to oppose it.
“We’re not sitting idly by and waiting to see if they’re going to come up with something,” said Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville. “We’ve pretty much let them know that they will face strong opposition on the floor. And if it’s attached to any other bill, then they could be putting the entire bill at risk. My hope is, they’ll realize it’s futile.”
Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston, is the vice chairman of the County and Municipal Government Committee, which heard arguments related to the proposed tax this week. Wood said a roll call vote split evenly among committee members — with one member abstaining — meaning the current legislation is dead.
Legislators in Jefferson County have estimated such a tax could raise $60 million per year for the cash-strapped county. But Wood, who represents Pell City as part of his district, said he believes the tax is unfair.
“This is taxation without representation,” he said. “My people don’t get to vote in elections or anything else (in Jefferson County), but you’re going to tax them to work there.
“It’s not fair to people in St. Clair to pay an occupational tax. If they want to charge the people in Jefferson County, that’s their business. But don’t charge the folks in St. Clair and surrounding counties to work there, because they’re not getting anything out of it. I think it’s definitely unfair.”
Two members of St. Clair County’s legislative delegation are also members of Jefferson County’s. Rep. Dickie Drake, R-Leeds, said he is not wholly opposed to a tax, but believes it would have to have a time limit on it.
“We’ve got a plan (for Jefferson County), and I think you’re going to hear a lot about it this week,” Drake said. “I’m not for the occupational tax. It’s just that we’ve got to do something to help Jefferson County. The commissioners in Jefferson County now, I feel sorry for them. I don’t know why anybody in their right mind would run, knowing the shape it’s in. But we’ve got to help them.”
Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said the county must address financial inefficiencies, such as Cooper Green Hospital, before asking for increased revenue.
“I have always said, since the first time I ran for office, that government has to run as efficiently as it possibly can,” he said. “Can it run as efficiently as a business? I doubt it. There is always that striving to ensure that dollars are spent in the wisest manner possible.
“If you give any government entity all the money they say they could possibly need, they never become efficient. We have a real opportunity to address some of the issues that have plagued Jefferson County, and we should look at it as an opportunity, instead of looking at it as a crisis.”
Contact Will Heath at firstname.lastname@example.org.